10 August 2017

Nigeria: Five Reasons 'Breast Is Best'

I remember when I was a little younger and my older sisters would give birth. My mother would go for 'omu-gwo' (a tradition where the mother and baby are taken care of by a close relative such as a mother or mother-in-law). My mother would insist that my sisters breastfeed their children. My sisters really had no choice, she practically forced them. She really didn't care if you were tired or if it hurt, she insisted that her grandchildren would not be fed formula milk, at least not in the first few months. In fact, her popular phrase was "Breast is Best!" 'Breast is Best!" And she would say it over and over again till they gave in. Perhaps now they should all thank her because indeed, 'Mama Knows best!'

Breastfeeding has been extensively researched by numerous medical authorities and the health benefits are endless; both to the infant and to the mother as well. The World Health Organization recommends that nursing mothers should breastfeed exclusively during the first year of a child's life. According to the WHO, there is well established evidence on cognitive and health benefits associated with breastfeeding as well as significant risks of not breastfeeding. Some of the benefits you provide your child with via breastfeeding are as follows:

Ideal nutrition for the baby

There's no question around this. Breastmilk provides the ideal nutrition for a newborn baby. It has the perfect mix of vitamins, proteins, fat and sugar needed and is more easily digested than formula for the infant. It helps to form a healthy gut in babies. Also, breastmilk adapts to the baby's changing needs meaning that mother's breastmilk is customized specifically for her infant's needs.

Immunity for the baby

All babies should be breastfed immediately after delivery or within an hour after birth. The Colostrum which is the first milk produced by the mother's breast is loaded with antibodies to protect the newborn and help fight off initial bacterial and viral infections. These antibodies are passed on to the baby only by breastfeeding. Research has shown that breastfed babies have a better antibody response to vaccines than formula fed babies and a stronger immune system overall, com. Overall, the immune system of children that are breast fed is stronger compared to those that aren't.

Long term health

Breastfed babies have lowered chances of developing chronic illnesses in the future such as Type 1 and 2 diabetes, Gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohns disease and Celiac disease. Cold and Flu and other Respiratory disorders such as Asthma, Pneumonia are less common in breastfed children. Also, the incidence of SIDS Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is reduced by half. There is a decreased risk of childhood cancers such as Leukemia in breastfed children. So you see, ultimately, breastfeeding newborns would keep them out of the hospital in the long run.

Smarter children

Though the jury is still out on this, studies have shown that breastfeeding has been linked to improved academic performance in young children. Of course, I am aware that other factors can positively influence academic excellence such as paying attention in class, personal study time and discipline. Yet, the largest study conducted around this claim, was by Dr. Michael Kramer at McGill University, Canada and on 14,000 children. He concluded that breastfed babies had higher IQ scores and were more intelligent than babies that were formula fed. I guess it won't hurt to try!

Decreased risk of childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is quickly becoming an epidemic and our young children are getting fatter and fatter. Though it's not as bad as it is in more developed countries, we still have obese children here in Nigeria. Breastfeeding helps to promote a healthy weight range in children. This may be due to the increased Leptin hormone present in breastmilk that helps regulate appetite and fat storage. Studies have shown that obesity rates are about 20-30% lower in breast fed babies. The risk is lowered the longer the months the baby is breast fed. Each month accounts for about four per cent decreased risk, so if you breastfeed your infant for only 2 months the obesity risk would only be decreased by 8% and so on and so forth.

5 ways breastfeeding benefits new mums

Breastfeeding creates a special bond like no other between the mother and child. It is such an intimate act and this skin to skin contact is very important to newborns. It allows the baby to become more familiar with the mother's touch, the heartbeat, and helps babies feel more secure and comforted. The oxytocin released also promotes enhanced love and affection, trust and confidence between mother and baby. It elevates the mother's mood and wards off postpartum depression. Therefore, breastfeeding is a way a mother can build a loving and nurturing relationship with their child.

It's cheap and convenient

Imagine it's the middle of the night and your baby is hungry and crying. What could be easier than just whipping out one breast and satisfying your baby? You don't have to stand up from bed to warm the baby food to the right temperature because breastmilk is always at the right temperature, you wouldn't even have to buy, wash or sterilize any bottles. Formula and feeding supplies are expensive and breastfeeding eliminates that huge dent in your finances because breastmilk is free!

Bye cancer!

There is conclusive evidence that breastfeeding an infant for more than 18 months reduces risk of a woman developing ovarian cancer by as much as 50 per cent! Breastfeeding can also decrease a woman's breast cancer risk especially if done for more than a year. This is because prolonged periods of breastfeeding reduce a woman's lifetime exposure to estrogen, the hormone that is the main component that promotes breast and ovarian cancer cell growth.

Kick off the Kgs

Just as with the baby, breastfeeding helps women to maintain a healthy weight. Breastfeeding mums can burn an additional 1000 calories or more a day depending on how frequently you breastfeed. Naturally, women who are breastfeeding would make healthier food choices to avoid giving the baby too much junk and this would translate into a quicker weight loss for the mother because you are eating nourishing, healthy foods. Generally, women who breastfeed tend to return faster to their pre-baby weight than those who do not breastfeed.

6 versus 10

Oxytocin released during breastfeeding is also responsible for uterine contractions. This means that there is reduced blood loss post-delivery and this helps the uterus heal quicker and return to normal size more quickly - in six weeks as opposed to 10 weeks - if you don't breastfeed.

In general, breastfeeding is of optimum importance for healthy growth and development and long-term health of the child, and it is very important to encourage this all over the world. Awareness should be made very early during pregnancy or even before conception. Breastfeeding your infant is one of the highly preventive measures to protect your child's health. If we want our future generation to become healthier, we need to promote breastfeeding from now. Just tell them 'When it comes to baby food, breast is best!"

Disclaimer: The medical information provided on here by Dr. Nini Iyizoba is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment

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