Great joy in the family on arrival of a new born. Provision of adequate nutrition is one of the ways to enhance the survival of the new born and God who gave the gift has made an adequate provision to ensure that this is adequately taken care of by creating the breast for women to breast feed her child.

Breastfeeding is an unmatched method of providing standard food for infant’s healthy growth and development. Breast feeding is an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications on the mother, the child, the family and the nation.

The human breast milk is the most appropriate form of feeding new born, because it is natural. It is produced directly from the breast; no issue of contamination as a result of preparation procedures.

Feeding in new born has gone past just breast feeding but breast feeding exclusively. WHO and UNICEF recommendation on breastfeeding are:

Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour after the birth of new born.

Breast feeding exclusively for the first six months.

Continued feeding for two years or more and proper introduction of solid foods starting in the six month which are nutritional safe and adequate.

 Exclusive breast feeding this is when the infant receives breast milk only without any additional food or drink not even water unless medically indicated (Feeding solely on breast milk; nothing else added – no water, no other food (nutrient) except for medically prescribed drugs). It has been shown that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life is the ideal path for infant feeding thereafter the introduction of complimentary feeding with continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.

Although there are contraindications to breastfeeding (see subsequent post on Contraindications to Breastfeeding). Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing to look forward to why? It is not only of great importance to the new born but the mother and the entire family.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BREASTFEEDING TO THE BABY, THE MOTHER AND THE FAMILY.

THE BABY

Nutritional benefit: Breast milk is rich in nutrients and contains the right quantities of fat, sugar, protein. Breast milk contains: Water (88%); Proteins (1-1.5%); Carbohydrate (lactose -7%); Fats (total caloric value -0.6cal/ml); Vitamins; Minerals. Vitamin K, after several months, Vitamin D.

Immunological benefits: When a child is exclusively breast fed, their immune system is strengthened, enabling it to fight against life threatening illnesses like pneumonia, diarrhea etc. It was estimated by the World Health Organization that around 220, 000 children could be saved yearly by exclusive breast feeding. To boast the immunity of a newborn it is recommended that new born should be fed with colostrum-  Deep Yellow milk that is first available to the new born. It is secreted in latter part of pregnancy till the first 3to 6 days after delivery. Immunoglobulin A (IgA) as well as several antibodies are provided in high amount by the colostrum.

Cognitive Development: Many studies have linked higher Intelligence Quotient in later childhood to breastfeeding

Low incidence of Allergies: Breast milk lowers the risk of having asthma or allergies. Ear infections, bouts of diarrhoeaandrespiratory illnesses are much fewer in babies who are exclusively breastfed. They also have fewer hospitalization.

Lowered the risk of otitis media,gastroenteritis, respiratory illness, sudden infant death syndrome(SIDs), necrotising enterocolitis, obesity, hypertension etc. in infants

 Precludes infective agents being passed through other food ‘items’

 Prevents other ‘non- nutritious items filling up the stomach of new born.

THE MOTHER

Protects against Postpartum Bleeding: Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which aid uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and reduces uterine bleeding.

Protects against cancers: Breastfeeding provides mothers with long term protection against cancer and several diseases. Time spent in breastfeeding has been linked to reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Recent findings showed that breastfeeding may protect against metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems

Loss of pregnancy weight: Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help mother lose pregnancy weight faster.

It brings about maternal satisfaction

MOTHER AND CHILD

Mother – Child Bonding: The physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching and eye contact all help baby bond with their mother and feel secure

FAMILY

Family Planning Benefits: Continued breastfeeding also pauses ovulation and menstruation. The pause can serve as a natural method for pregnancy spacing.

Economic Benefits: Breastfeeding is completely free and requires very little effort for preparation. It is ready to drink and always at the right temperature. It removes spending on formula the money which can be used to meet other family needs. It also removes the stress involved in warming up bottle at night, washing feeding bottles etc.

There could be concerns as to:

1. Vitamin K and Fluoride content in breast milk: Exclusive breastfeeding is for the first six month of new-born life therefore breast milk has all that is adequate for the infant normal growth at such age. Fluoride is for teeth formation and development and at six month the new born has no teeth. Hence the recommendation for the introduction of complimentary feeding after the first six month of new-born life with continued breastfeeding to supply other unavailable nutrient or those nutrients that may not be sufficiently supplied by the breast milk at such age.

2. Transmission of Infections/Excretion of Drugs: this is one of the reasons for contraindications to exclusive breastfeeding (see subsequent post on Contraindications to Breastfeeding)

Conclusion

If no contraindication nursing mother should be motivated to embrace exclusive breastfeeding not because of its importance as a source of nutrition to the new born but also for the health and other benefits embedded in it for the mother, the child and the entire family. Other family members should be involved as well such as in the area of helping out with house chores so as to enable her lactate well and give the baby suck as at when demanded. Stakeholders at all levels should strive to create a conducive and favourable work policy to enable nursing mothers breastfeed exclusively.

Reviewed on 11/4/2020

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