Health News of Thursday, 23 August 2012
Source: BASSAH DOMINIC ELUBO
Breastfeeding has been one of the traditions that have been followed for a very long time. However, its potential in given impetus to the proper growth and development of infants and young children have not been fully harnessed.
The mere mention of breastfeeding directs all attention to women with most people thinking appropriate and successful breastfeeding is innate. Women are not born with the requisite skills to successfully breastfeed and must therefore be acquired through learned behaviour.
Mothers used to breastfeed their infants for a year and longer and sometimes till the second child is born. Consequently, paucity of time and matters of convenience is now compelling mothers to ship to powdered, bottled milk as a substitute for breast milk.
It has to be reiterated continuously for the popularisation of breast milk because of the fact that there cannot be any available substitute for it. Breastfeeding does not only provide the nutritional needs of the child, an aspect of breastfeeding which some people think can be substituted. It also creates psychological bonding between a mother and her child, an aspect which is unparallel and has no alternative.
Cow’s milk which is usually used as substitute is only nearer and the most similar to a mother’s milk. Cow’s milk lack vitamin E, iron or essential fatty acids which can make children feeding on cow’s milk anaemic. The digestive systems of the children are not fully developed to fully digest and absorb protein and fats in whole cow milk. Their immature kidneys can be strained by the higher protein, sodium and potassium content of cow milk.
The lack of antibodies that protect infants till their immune system is fully developed makes breast milk the best option in promoting infant and young child survival. Issues of safety are often neglected by proponents of bottle feeding.
Breast milk is convenient, clean and safe-always available at the right temperature at all times and nearly all mothers can breastfeed. Breastfed babies are rarely constipated and are less likely to run diarrhoea due to the easier digestibility of breast milk. Recent studies have shown an inverse association between breastfeeding and childhood obesity.
Mothers are not left out when it comes to the benefits of breastfeeding. It helps in the return of the uterus to its pre gestational state faster. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and pre-menopausal breast cancer.