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Why Breast Milk Is Ideal Food For Babies

Healthcare professionals drum support for exclusive breastfeeding, describing breast milk as best food for the growth and development of a child, writes Angela Onwuzoo

Breast milk is the most nutritionally sound food mothers can provide for their babies because it is easy to digest by baby’s little stomach.

Apart from helping in strengthening baby’s natural defenses, breast milk also contributes in protecting babies from diseases as well as help in their cognitive development.

Those were the submissions of healthcare professionals at a breastfeeding seminar in Lagos recently tagged: “Breastfeeding, Score a goal; Save a Child”, organized by Nestle Nigeria Plc in collaboration with the Nutrition Society of Nigeria and National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives to create awareness on the importance of breast feeding.

Hence, they urged mothers to embrace the act of exclusive breastfeeding for the reasons that breast milk contains vital nutrients which boost a baby’s immunity, asserting that breast milk remains the ideal food for healthy growth of babies.

In her presentation titled;” Breastfeeding Support: A Multi- sectorial Approach ”, Prof. Chinyere Ezeaka of Department of Paediatrics, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said breastfeeding is the Why Breast Milk Is Ideal Food For Babies Healthcare professionals drum support for exclusive breastfeeding, describing breast milk as best food for the growth and development of a child, writes Angela Onwuzoo best way to provide newborns with all the nutrients they need.

Describing breastfeeding as modern miracle considering its enormous benefits in the growth and development of a child, Ezeaka said breast milk is a living product and is always alive.

She affirmed that breast milk has antibodies, living cells, enzymes and natural hormones that protect infants from diseases and infections, stressing that well breastfed babies suffer less from diarrhoea, pneumonias, otitis, Sepsis, constipation, rashes, asthma and allergic reactions.

Speaking on how exclusive breastfeeding could significantly reduce the high rate of infant mortality in the country, the professor noted: “A non breastfed child will have 10x more diarrhoea,15x more pneumonia, 14x overall mortality in the first six months compared to an exclusively breastfed child in developing countries.

Breastfeeding, she noted remains the gold standard because breast milk is the best, supreme and superior.

Ezeaka however expressed concern over the poor rate of exclusive breastfeeding practice in Nigeria which she said was at the rate of 15 percent according to the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey( NDHS) when Ghana was at the rate 56 percent.

Going by the World Health Organization(WHO) definition of exclusive breastfeeding, she said: “Exclusive breastfeeding is when the infant has received only breast milk from her mother or a wet nurse, or expressed breast milk and no other liquids or solids, with the exception of drops or syrups consisting of vitamins, mineral supplements, or medicines.”

She called on all stakeholders, husbands, family members and friends to support breastfeeding mothers so that they can practice exclusive breastfeeding.

She also appealed for supportive labour and delivery services for expectant mothers in addition to postpartum and postnatal care that would facilitate bonding and optimal early exclusive breastfeeding.

“ A mother needs to feel supported, but this support MUST come from multiple sources and sectors, with correct and consistent messages from all her contacts”, she noted.

On the benefits of early initiation of a baby to breastfeeding, Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chris Isokpunwu ,said early initiation of breastfeeding is important for both the mother and the child.

“Early suckling stimulates the release of prolactin which helps in the production of milk and oxytocin which is responsible for the ejection of milk.

It also stimulates contraction of the uterus after childbirth and reduces postpartum blood loss

The first liquid to come from the breast, known as colostrums, is produced in the first few days after delivery. Colostrum is highly nutritious and contains antibodies that provide natural immunity to the infant”, he stated.

Reviewing nutrition statistics and breastfeeding practices in Nigeria, Isokpunwu pointed out that protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding could be the single most important child survival intervention in the country.

Arguing that exclusive breastfeeding alone has the potential to avert 13 per cent of all under five deaths, thus significantly contributing to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) particularly MDGs 1 and 4.

He revealed that feeding practices such as exclusive breastfeeding plays a critical role in a child’s development considering the fact that poor feeding practices can adversely impact on the health and nutritional status of children, which in turn has direct consequences for their mental and physical development.

According to him, it is recommended that children be fed colostrums immediately after birth (within one hour) and that they continue to be exclusively breastfed even if the regular breast milk has not yet started to flow.

Drumming support for mothers particularly at the community level, Isokpunwu, therefore, called for health education on this key life-saving practice- exclusive breastfeeding.

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