Courtesy of PNGitem


World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), celebrated from 1st to 7th of August every year, commemorates the Innocenti Declaration goal to support every woman breastfeed their newborns. Celebrated in over 120 countries, WBW promotes and supports breastfeeding efforts by creating awareness of the importance of breast milk in child growth and development. To most of us, the question is why world leaders would converge and spend time discussing the importance of breastfeeding for children. Is it not common knowledge that every mother has to breastfeed her newborn? For breast milk to generate that level of commitment by world leaders, there must have been triggers and needs. Today, we shall Bridge the Health Gap by expounding on breastfeeding as the ultimate child nutrition.

Definition of breastfeeding practice

To breastfeed means the act of nursing a baby on the mother’s breast. This definition may be limiting as children can receive human milk without necessarily suckling on the breast. In this article, breastfeeding refers to the act of nursing the baby on the breast or feeding with expressed breast milk due to a medical or other reasons. We shall outline the benefits of breastfeeding to both the mother and the baby, the downside of not breastfeeding, and how to breastfeed on special occasions.

Benefits of breastfeeding for the baby

  1. The first six months of life is a period of rapid physical and cognitive growth and development. Breastfeeding provides the essential nutrients to meet this demand.
  2. Breast milk is wholesome and nutrient-dense with the right mix of carbohydrates, protein, fats, and water making it easy to digest and nutritious.
  3. Breast milk is readily available, does not require preparation, and is at the right temperature, and free of microorganisms that can occur with any other form of infant feeding.
  4. Breast milk contains important immune-boosting globulin that strengthen the immune system of the digestive and respiratory tracts protecting the baby from common ailments like diarrhea, colds, flu, ear infections, and pneumonia.
  5. Extending breastfeeding up to 2 years increases cognitive development, a critical component for future growth and excellence in life.
  6. Breastfeeding supports emotional and social interactions that influence moods, affects, and stress levels. Breastfed children exhibit better coping mechanisms, with the bond between mother and baby enhancing security and confidence.
  7. Children who do not receive breast milk suffer from higher risks of ill-health with more incidences of gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts infections, malnutrition, elevated childhood obesity, and metabolic diseases like diabetes later in life.

 Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother

  1. Breastfeeding enables the mother to create a lasting bond with the baby. When breastfeeding, the relationship between mother and baby promotes the release of the hormone oxytocin associated with wellness and comfort.
  2. Breastfeeding help with the evolution of the uterus controls uterine bleeding after childbirth and rapidly helps the uterus to revert to a pre-pregnancy state.
  3. Breastfeeding promotes weight regulation and shedding off extra pounds accumulated during pregnancy. Each day, a breastfeeding mom requires an additional 400 to 500 kilo calories. 
  4. Mothers who breastfeed their children are less likely to suffer from breast cancer and other reproductive and metabolic-related diseases like obesity and diabetes.

Tips for a Successive Breastfeeding Experience

  1. Initiate breastfeeding within an hour after childbirth

For successful breastfeeding to occur, initiate breastfeeding within one hour of childbirth. This process helps the mother be more confident in her breastfeeding acumen while the baby immediately starts to gain the nutrients needed. Breast milk stimulates the digestive tracts allowing regular bowels movement and prevents constipation. Colostrum, milk produced during the first few days, is rich in nutrients required to boost immunity.

Most mothers initiate breastfeeding without support. However, few mothers may require help in positioning and proper latching the baby to the nip. When breastfeeding does not started well, the new mother may experience painful nipples on suckling the baby. The health care provider can educate the mother on the proper position of the baby while breastfeeding.

2.Practice exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your child life

Exclusive breastfeeding describes a situation where the baby is feed on breast milk alone with nothing else added. Breast milk is complete and wholesome. Despite the bountiful benefits that exclusive breastfeeding accrues to the baby, it has relatively remained a vision not yet fully met. Understanding the great importance breast milk bestow a newborn can stimulate the right attitude towards breastfeeding.

Exclusive breastfeeding is not easy and requires time and support. Ensuring that the mother exclusively breastfeeds, the family, workplace, and national input is fundamental. At home, the mother requires a balanced diet that is adequate to meet the demand of breastfeeding. At work, a favorable environment that recognizes the needs of a breastfeeding mother by allowing some time to attend to the baby or availing a room to cater for breast milk expression. 

 3. Introduce complementary feeding at six months with continued breastfeeding 

Complementary feeding is a process that starts after exclusive breastfeeding and covers the period between six months and 24 months or more. During this time, the demands of the growing baby cannot be provided by breast milk alone. Complementary feeding, therefore, defines a period when breast milk remains a pertinent part of the diet alongside other foods and liquids. Breastfeeding should continue on-demand and complemented with a high-quality diet that is appropriate for child age.  

The transition period presents unique challenges for both the baby and the mother. It is crucial to be aware that poor quality complementary feeding and a poor living environment can increase infections. For instance, diarrhea from contaminated foods can be very stressful. Practice safe preparation and storage of baby foods; use of cup and spoon is preferred to bottles and teats as they carry a lesser risk of food contamination. Give right food consistency at appropriate age. Start with pureed or mashed food for a baby six to eight months, finger foods for baby 9 to 11 months, and solid family foods as of 12 months.


4. Prioritize your nutrition 

Breastfeeding provides all essential nutrients for a growing baby. Successful breastfeeding is dependent on the nutritional status of the mother. Eat a nutrient-dense diet that includes all major food groups; carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals to provide nourishment and enhance optimal breastfeeding. Choose food sources rich in protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins, elements that promote breastfeeding

5. Engage in moderate physical exercises during breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is not a contradiction to physical exercises. Breastfeeding alone consumes about 400-500 kilo calories and should be factored in any training regimen so that milk production is not affected. Planning your workout around a baby feeding routine can be tricky. Try low-impact exercises like Yoga and ease out into a proper working program as breastfeeding advances.

6. Aim to continue breastfeeding even after resuming work

After the official time allowed for maternity care, most mothers report back to work. Sometimes, this is difficult for the mother who has to be away from her newborn baby. Some workplaces may have established supportive policies on return to work after maternity leave, and even where workplaces do not have any special consideration, it is important to continue breastfeeding your baby. Maximize the time off from work to bond with your baby and breastfeed them as much as possible. Arrange to feed the baby with expressed breast milk while away at work and breastfeed immediately after work. Train the baby caretaker on how to feed with expressed breast milk or its alternatives and how to prepare safely.

When an alternative breast milk substitute is required, seek guidance from your health provider on the most appropriate product.

Breastfeeding in Special Circumstances

  1. Breastfeeding when  mother is sick

There are no set out prohibitions to breastfeeding while the mother is sick as long as she is able. However, take caution to protect the baby from getting infected. In the case of colds and flu, the mother is usually contagious even before symptoms present, and unnecessary to stop, and breastfeeding. Often when the illness subsides, the mother has mounted her defense and the baby benefits by strengthening its immune system.

2. Breastfeeding and HIV infection

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV can pass to the baby through breast milk. However, there are guidelines for mother-to-child prevention of transmission of HIV infection that are tested and proven effective. By implementing those protocols through your health care provider, the mother and baby can have a successful breastfeeding experience. Once again, not to breastfeed a baby even with HIV, studies have shown carries a higher risk of diseases and even death from common illnesses like diarrhea and respiratory tract infection due to lowered immunity. 

 3. Breastfeeding and COVID-19 Infection

Breastfeeding for a mother confirmed or suspected of coronavirus infection, the Center for Disease Control recommends that breastfeeding or breast milk continue during the illness. However, mothers should observe infection prevention measures to protect the baby;

  • Wash hands with soap and water before breastfeeding or expressing breast milk.
  • Wear a face mask when breastfeeding or expressing breast milk
  • Clean the pumping machine thoroughly especially parts that came into contact with the mother’s skin
  • Clean and disinfect frequently used areas in the house and food preparation spaces
  • Ensure that living areas in the house are well ventilated and avoid overcrowding
  • Practice cough etiquette, cover nose and mouth when coughing, dispose safely of materials used to clean nose and mouth
  • Seek medical advice if you suspect that you or your child is sick


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