The Sunday Mail
EVERY year, more than 120 countries celebrate the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) from August 1 to August 7, which promotes exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
Critically, exclusive breastfeeding basically provides vital nutrients to babies.
And it protects infants from deadly diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Breast milk primarily fosters growth and development of a child in the first six months of life.
Equally, breastfeeding is particularly effective against infectious diseases.
It directly strengthens the child’s immune system by transferring antibodies from the mother.
Fortunately, the transmission of coronavirus through breast milk has not yet been scientifically proven.
Initially, breasts produce the “ideal milk” – colostrum.
Colostrum is a breast fluid produced by humans, cows and other mammals before breast milk is released.
Biologically, colostrum is critical in the development of the child’s digestive system. Colostrum is very nutritious and contains high levels of antibodies.
Naturally, breasts responsively produce more milk as the baby’s nutritional requirements increase. But with formula supplements, breasts usually produce less milk.
Since 1992, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action has been increasingly promoting a global breastfeeding culture.
As such, it has been providing support for breastfeeding everywhere.
WBW is a commemoration of the Innocenti Declaration, which was adopted by WHO and UNICEF in August 1990.
The goal was to extensively protect and support breastfeeding.
Breast milk contains vital antibodies that help the baby to fight off viruses and bacteria. And it has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat – everything the baby needs.
In some studies, breastfeeding has been potentially linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood.
More so, the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching and eye contact are equally important for improved mother-to-child bonding.
In the face of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19 positive breastfeeding mothers must extremely practise recommended health precautions.
In fact, children who are exclusively breastfed have reportedly fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhoea.
At least, babies must be exclusively breastfed for a year.
Other foods such as vegetables, grains, fruits and proteins should be routinely introduced at six months of age.
According to research, breastfed children are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow old.
It is highly thought that breast milk clinically lowers the risk of diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.
But more research ought to be done to scientifically inform on such a phenomenon.
On the other hand, breast feeding significantly lowers the child’s risk of developing asthma, or allergies.
The American Academy of Paediatrics claims that “breastfeeding plays a role in the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)”.
Unsurprisingly, breastfed children have fewer hospitalisations and outpatient visits.
Mothers, too, can patently benefit from breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding naturally burns extra calories, helping mothers to speedily lose pregnancy- induced weight.
Physiologically, breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin release essentially promotes the uterus to quickly return to its pre-pregnancy size, reducing risks of post-partum haemorrhage.
More importantly, breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. The risk of developing osteoporosis can be significantly lowered, too.
Economically, breastfeeding saves money and time. And regularly offers mothers time to relax quietly with the newly born, creating a very important bond between the mother and child.
As the World celebrates the World Breastfeeding Week, let us all “support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”.
Ultimately, mothers should appreciate the ABCs of breastfeeding. ABC entails awareness of the signs of hunger, being patient to breastfeed, and comfort during breastfeeding.
Everisto Mapfidze is a registered general nurse who holds a Bsc Honours in Sociology (UZ). For feedback: [email protected]