What is breastfeeding?
After a back-breaking and successful 9-month wait of a mother comes the over-whelming joy of motherhood with exciting new responsibilities, especially for a first-time mother. One of the first and most important of such responsibility among others, is breastfeeding the newborn within the first hour of delivery. This emotionally fulfilling moment is referred to as the ‘’golden hour’’ because it is considered very crucial as it is the first physical mother-child contact that promotes a bond between a mother and her child. The breastfeeding process also known as nursing, begins with a nurse carefully placing the newborn on the mother’s chest for skin-to-skin contact, thereby positioning the child to suckle the mother’s breast in order to obtain the first breast milk after birth, known as ‘’colostrum’’. The mother’s first breast milk is the optimal nutrient and the first vaccine for the baby, packed with energy, it helps in the growth and development of the baby.
What is your role?
The World Health Organization, (WHO)’ celebrates the ‘’World Breastfeeding Week’’ every year from 1 to 7 August to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.
This year, WHO is working with UNICEF and partners to promote the importance of family-friendly policies to enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children in early life when it matters most. Breastfeeding promotes better health for mothers and children alike. According to the WHO,’’ increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels could save more than 800, 000 lives every year, the majority being children under 6 months. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of mothers developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It is estimated that increased breastfeeding could avert 20 000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer’’.
Why exclusive breastfeeding?
Exclusive breastfeeding means that the infant receives only breast milk. No other liquids or solids are given – not even water – except for oral rehydration solution, or drops/syrups of vitamins, minerals or medicines.
According to a recent national survey as reported by the Nigerian Punch online Newspapers dated 7th, August 2019, only 27 percent of children in the country are given exclusive breastfeeding by their mothers, leaving a deficit of 73 percent being denied the right. The report also says that, ‘’ Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children, with a national prevalence rate of 32 percent among children under five years. The report added that an estimated two and a half million Nigerian children suffered from acute malnutrition with only two out of 10 children affected getting treatment.
Breastfeeding is a natural way, and the most idea means of feeding a new-born. It has many health benefits for both the mother and child. Breast milk contains all the nutrients an infant need in the first six months of life. Breastfeeding is not only the cornerstone of a child’s healthy development; it is also the foundation of a country’s development. The benefit of breastfeeding extends well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrient your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness.
Health benefits of Breast milk for your baby;
All human babies receive some coverage in advance of birth. During pregnancy, the mother passes antibodies to her fetus through the placenta. But breast-fed infants gain extra protection from antibodies, other proteins and immune cells in human milk; other benefits include;
- breastmilk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for the first 6 months
- it also satisfies the baby’s thirst
- it helps develop the eyes and brain and other body systems: The other benefits of breastfeeding include enabling sensory and cognitive development, protecting the infant against diseases and reducing infant mortality by allowing quicker recovery from illnesses like diarrhea and pneumonia.
- the act of breastfeeding helps with jaw development
- it helps the baby resist infection and disease, even later in life: Breastfeeding protects against diarrhoea and common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia and may also have longer-term health benefits for the mother and child, such as reducing the risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence.
- it reduces the risk of obesity in childhood and later in life
- it contains a range of factors that protect your baby while their immune system is still developing
Health benefits Breast milk for a Mother;
Breastfeeding also has many benefits for mothers. Not only is it convenient, cheap, and always available, it also:
- Reduces the risk of Postpartum hemorrhage: Postpartum hemorrhage or bleeding is a situation where there is loss of more than 500 ml or 1,000 ml of blood within the first 24 hours following childbirth. Breastfeeding can reduce the chances to a bearable minimum
- reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancer
- is convenient and cheap
- can soothe your baby
- prolongs the amount of time before you get your period again
What are the nutrients in breast milk?
Breast milk contains all the nutrients a child needs for proper growth and development; these nutrients include:
- Free water
- Proteins – Protein accounts for 75% of the nitrogen-containing compounds and the non-protein nitrogen substances include urea, nucleotides, peptides, free amino acids and DNA.
- Fats – Essential fatty acids and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Carbohydrates – The principal carbohydrate of human milk is lactose.
- Minerals, vitamins, and trace elements.
What are the different types or stages of breastmilk?
Depending on the stage of breastfeeding, there are different types of breastmilk. Breast milk changes within a feeding. A child can have varying degrees of appetite or thirst, so breastmilk can also vary in order to meet the child’s nutrition and fluid requirements. Breastmilk composition can also vary depending on the time of day and significantly between mothers. Due to this variability, the nutritional content of breast milk is typically provided as average values of nutrients in mature breastmilk. These breast milk types are;
Colostrum: Colostrum is the secretion produced during the first few days (1-7 days) after birth and differs from both transitional and mature milk. It contains a higher amount of protein, less fat and several immunising factors for the new-born.
Transitional milk: It is the transition from colostrum to mature milk, where lactation is established, and production of milk begins in the breast tissue. Transitional milk is produced from approximately day 8 – 20.
Mature milk: Mature milk is produced from 20 days after birth, onwards. It can vary in and between mothers and the energy can vary between 270 and 315 kJ per 100mL. This is largely due to the variation in the fat content, as the fat of the milk received by the infant increases as the feed progresses. Mature milk continues to provide immune factors and other important non-nutritional components to the infant.
How long should a mother breastfeed?
Even though the duration of breastfeeding entirely depends on the agreement or cooperation of both mother and child i.e. how long a mother is willing or able to breastfeed her child and how long her baby is willing to take the breast milk, The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth until a baby is 6 months old. Nutritious complementary foods should then be added while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years or beyond.