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Monday, August 9, 2010

Mother, child and exclusive breastfeeding .

GLOBALLY, particularly on the African continent, has been emphasis on exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of a child's life.

It is often argued that children, who were breastfed exclusively for six months are more healthy and have more immunity against child killer diseases.

As a strategy to ensure the survival of children through exclusive breastfeeding, August 1 to 7 of every year has been designated as Breastfeeding Week globally.

In this respect, the Federal Ministry of Health plans to engage the participation of religious mothers to stress the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life, so as to reduce the current high rate of child mortality.

This strategy relies on the faith element because women have faith in the word of their religious leaders and are more likely to heed it, said the head of the Child Health Division of the Ministry, Dr Nkeiru Onuekwusi.

According to her, breastfeeding is the most cost effective public health intervention for a child’s survival, yet many women do not breastfeed exclusively for six months. She explained that a number of socio-cultural factors cause the decline.

“Breastfeeding is free, it is cheap, we don’t need to get a lot money to get women to breastfeed. It is not that women don’t breastfeed their babies, but how many do exclusive breastfeeding? They give water because they believe water is life, yet the breast milk contains everything your baby needs to grow and develop optimally.

“I think a lot of it is with the urban women who prefer bottle feeding; and the rural women copy them thinking it’s fashionable to bottle feed,” she said.

Meanwhile, urban or working mothers say lack of crèche in offices reduces their ability to breastfeed exclusively as they have to resume work before the expiration of six months.

In the same light, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with solids gradually being introduced around this age when signs of readiness are shown. Supplemented breastfeeding is recommended until at least age two, as long as mother and child wish.

Reports have also shown that breastfeeding reduces the cost of health care by promoting healthier children and mothers. It also reduces global pollution by decreasing the use of resources and energy required to produce, process, package, distribute, promote and dispose of materials created by the manufacture and use of artificial baby milk.

According to a fish farmer and a business woman, Mrs Gift Etokwudo, who also is a nursing mother, said exclusive breastfeeding was the best and would advise all mothers to comply.

For her, she has benefited from it a lot and her first child did not fall sick when he was at his tender age and it is cheaper and saves the parents money expended on artificial feeding.

She said: “For me, I do exclusive breastfeeding except for my second child who happened to be a premature, so the doctors advised I do not breastfeed him that long.”

Similarly, Mrs Ngozichukwu Ivaren, told the Nigerian Compass that breast milk is better than artificial feeding because it draws the mother closer to the child. That is, there is a mother-child relationship. It prevents the baby from having any infection because of its rich nature and that it is a balanced diet from God.

She added that children with exclusive breastfeeding have 'real' brain while children who are not breastfed exclusively have 'cow' brain.

“Breast milk alone has 70 per cent of water. Therefore, you do not need water when breastfeeding and it has immunity against diseases,” Mrs Ivaren said.

Another nursing mother, who

simply gave her name as Peace, noted that the child will not fall sick having been fed for six months.

She said, “it keeps the child healthy unlike the usage of formula which some children could react to negatively thereby resulting to vomiting and stooling.”

According to her, breastfeeding makes the mother and the baby bond thereby creating a mutual relationship because mother often breastfeed more than 10 times a day.

“Breast milk is the perfect way of feeding your child because it has all the right amount of all the six classes of food in its right temperature and the flavour of your food goes into the baby through the breast milk. My baby started eating after six months and the reason was based on medical advise,” she said.

The first six months, she disclosed, are the most delicate part of babies' lives and should be taken with all seriousness because the breast milk is like an immunisation plus food for them and like a reliever when they are troubled.

She advised mothers to embrace exclusive breastfeeding, saying that the notion of breast going flat after long breastfeeding as well as the bigger the breast the larger the quantity of milk, vice versa, is wrong.

Breastfeeding, according to experts, is one of the most natural and beneficial acts a mother can do for her child. Health benefits have been proven to pass from mother to child through breast milk. They range from antibodies which protect an infant at birth to the exclusive nutrients in mother's milk which have been shown to prevent a number of childhood diseases.

The benefits are incalculable and there is no other single action by which a mother can so impact the present and future health of her baby than exclusive breastfeeding.““Yet, in today's society, breastfeeding is often thought of as unnecessary. Young mothers are mistakenly led to believe that formula does very well as a replacement for breast milk, it emphatically does not,” another nursing mother said.

Nothing can duplicate the properties of breast milk, no matter how many vitamins, minerals and supplements are added to what is basically a chemical formulation, researches have shown.

Breast milk remains the one and

only natural, complete and complex nutrition for human infants. It is nature's formula for ensuring the health and quality of life for infants, as well as through childhood to adult life. Just as importantly, breastfeeding promotes a very special bond between mother and child that only a mother can provide.

On the other hand, mothers also enjoy some benefits from exclusive breastfeeding, among them are; reduced risk of breast, ovarian, cervical, and geometrical cancers, reduced risk of anaemia, protection against osteoporosis and hip fracture later in life.

Also, there is reduced risk of mortality for women with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) which has been associated with total time of lactation, helps the mother's body return to its pre-pregnancy state faster, promotes weight loss, half of calories needed to manufacture milk is pulled from fat stores, and can burn from 500 to 1,500 calories per day.

It also helps delay return of fertility and to space subsequent pregnancies, it develops a special emotional relationship and bonding between mother and her child.

Breastfeeding also offers health benefits to children. These benefits include; lowered risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), increased intelligence, decreased likelihood of contracting middle ear infections, cold, and flu bugs, decreased risk of some cancers such as childhood leukaemia, lower risk of childhood onset diabetes, decreased risk of asthma and eczema, decreased dental problems, decreased risk of obesity later in life, and decreased risk of developing psychological disorders.

However, medical experts advise that people should reinforce a mother's own physiological cues during breastfeeding.

According to them, a mother's let-down is the interplay of her physiological response to suckling and her emotional state. Prolactin, the hormone responsible for let-down, is inhibited by stress (mediated by dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine).

They added that putting the infant to breast eight to 12 times a day during the first four to five days after birth ensures the creation of an adequate milk supply, which the infant's use later regulates.

However, a mother who responds to her infant's cry with let-down and who breast feeds her infant on demand (that is, unrestricted breastfeeding) is more successful with continued lactation than the mother who breastfeeds according to the clock.

Experts say that the recommendation for mothers to use systematic or controlled timed feeding to help regulate the baby's cycles is fraught with misinformation.

A mother, according to them, should be empowered to follow the internal schedule that is appropriate for her and her baby.

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