A Periodical Journal of Holy Ghost Academy Amaokpala
By Okonkwo Chinenye Maryrose
Our individual abilities to stand the test of time as we grow physiologically depends on how our mothers were able to breast feed us in the first two years in our infant life.
The way our bodies resist the attacks of sicknesses and diseases depends to large extent on how long we were fed with breast milk as infants.
Importance of Breast-Feeding To a Child
Breast-feeding is an important and natural way of feeding a newborn baby. The mother starts feeding the baby shortly after delivery. Though it takes sometime before the breast milk starts flowing; the moment the mouth of the baby touches the nipple of the mother milk starts to flow. Milk secretion is controlled by hormones.
Adequate breast feeding of a child is very important to his/her wellbeing, both in the growth and development.
- A well breast fed baby has less tendency of being obese.
- Breast feeding encourages/increases bonding between mother and baby.
- Breast milk is sterile and is balanced for baby consumption. It supplies the baby with the substances that protect against infections.
- It is more convenient for the mother to prepare.
- Breast feeding costs less. It provides cellular immunity.
- It supports both physical and mental development of infants as well as mothers’ health.
However, breastfeeding is not without some disadvantages, which are:
- A baby can suffocate under a big breast if a nursing mother decides to lie down and breast feed her baby.
- There could be vomiting as a result of breast milk entering a wrong track (i.e. air way).
These are preventable by observing good techniques of breast feeding act.
“Exclusive Breast Feeding” What Is It?
This is the act of breast feeding a newborn baby without introduction of supplementary and complementary foods. Baby is fed only on mother’s milk. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) introduced the concept of Friendly Hospital with stated steps to a better breast feeding culture in 1991.
Breast feeding starts immediately/or shortly after birth. Proper breast feeding of a child constitutes the mother being healthy, baby properly positioned between the mother’s laps and the breasts.
Economic and Social Factors Affecting Breast Feeding
This depends upon and is conditional to individual mother. If a nursing mother is a full time house wife, she can breast feed the baby up to two years. If she is a career or professional woman, or in a paid employment or a very business-like person occupationally, the majority of this class breast feed for the first six months and supplement with infant formula. No matter the status it is ideal for a nursing mother to breast feed her baby adequately longer because of long-run effects a well breast fed baby enjoys as he/she grows and develops in life. Adequate breastfeeding reduces breast cancer chances.
Breastfeeding and Health Implications in a Sick Mother: Controversy
A mother can breastfeed her child when she is sick. Even when she is HIV positive, she can breastfeed but must be placed on antiretroviral therapy, so as to reduce or not give the baby more viral load, hence less danger. This is the latest discovery and knowledge. If a mother has breast lump or cancer she suffers pain but not the baby. If a breastfeeding mother has low blood level and poor eating habit, it affects her and her baby. The dilemma facing H. I. V. positive mothers especially those who do not have access to safe water supply, enough income, food safety or ensure child’s nutrition.
Experts on breastfeeding and HIV transmission suggest that infant’s chance of survival is greater if fed artificially. The latest UN policy statement on HIV and infant feeding was issued in 2001, following an expert consultation on mother-to-child transmission of HIV weighing the rule of breastfeeding and replacement feeding.
Though studies and researches are in progress to give a better understanding of the mechanism, timing and risks vertical transmission programs need to expand coverage and provide mother with adequate information, guidance and support that allows the mother to choose and adhere to the safest infant feeding strategy for their situation.