THE World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) holds from 1st -7th August of every year and it is a full week set aside to talking about breastfeeding and its importance on both mother & child and the society at large. The theme for the 2017 WBW is Sustaining Breastfeeding Together which is aimed at informing the public, anchoring advocacy efforts, engaging partners and galvanising multi-sectorial efforts at achieving the SDG. Simply, the theme sets forth to promote collaboration and mobilize public support for breastfeeding.

 

This year’s breastfeeding campaign is woven around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and it is important to point out that breastfeeding has far reaching significance cross-cutting the entire 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The Sustainable Development Goal is an ambitious set of 17 global goals and 169 targets focussed on the people, planet and prosperity, given the necessary backing (signatures) of over 190 heads of state following the 2015 UN GA of which Nigeria is a signatory.1

Categorised under four thematic areas: environment and climate change; nutrition, poverty-reduction and food security; survival, health and wellbeing; women and economic empowerment, the breastfeeding awareness addresses every expedient avenue needed to bequeath a sustainable world to the generation coming after us.

Thus, I would share in these article benefits of breastfeeding and what everyone can do to support breastfeeding mothers at family, regional, national and global levels.

Human milk and breastfeeding are the ideal and normative standards for infant feeding and nutrition. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommends human milk as the sole source of nutrition for the first 6 months of life, with continued intake for the first year, and as long as desired thereafter. Breastfeeding has short- and long-term advantages for infant development.2

The first 2 days of breastfeeding, and perhaps the first hour of life, may determine the success of breastfeeding. However, some women have difficulty in expressing breast milk at that very auspicious time but it remains the duty of the attendant doctor or health officer to advice on how to proceed. It is understandable that some women have difficulty in expressing breast milk especially women with their first delivery. Some of the include anxiety, complicated childbirth, postpartum depression among others but no matter the alternative available, the diet of a child should be taken seriously.2,4

It is scientifically proven that breastfed children score higher on cognitive and IQ tests at school age, and also on tests of visual acuity; have a lower incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); are less likely to suffer from infectious illnesses and their symptoms such as diarrhea, ear infections, respiratory tract infections. Other proven benefits to the child include lower risk of the two most common inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), they suffer less often from some forms of cancer (e.g., Hodgkin’s disease, childhood leukemia); have a lower risk of juvenile onset diabetes, if they have a family history of the disease and are breastfed exclusively for at least 4 months;  are significantly protected against asthma and eczema; if at risk for allergic disorders and exclusively breastfed for at least 4 months, may have a lower risk of obesity in childhood and in adolescence.2,3,4

Whilst many young mothers complain of sagging breasts as a result of breastfeeding, this perceived cosmetic drawback is incomparable to the benefits mothers gain from breastfeeding. It is proven that women who have breastfed are less likely to develop ovarian and premenopausal breast cancers, reduces osteoporosis and they enjoy a quicker recovery after childbirth, with reduced risk of postpartum bleeding. More so, it is proven that mothers who breastfeed are more likely to return to their prepregnancy weight than mothers who formula feed thus for a healthy mother and child, breastfeeding is very important.2, 4 Breastfeeding is also known to reduce the risk for long-term obesity and risk of anemia by delaying the return of the menstrual cycle for 20 to 30 weeks. In addition, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months after delivery, in the absence of menses, is 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy- an effective natural contraceptive. Also, breastfeeding mothers are reported to be more confident and less anxious than bottle-feeding mothers as it tightens the emotional and psychological bonds between a mother and her child.4

However, it is important to note that some women choose not to breastfeed their children for various reasons such as medical advice in cases of systemic infection, post partum depression/psychosis  etc. it is understandable that breastfeeding infants can be challenging but it is the duty of community members and close relations to support mother and baby despite her choice or preferences.2

The society is not left out from the benefits of a breastfed child. Some of the benefit include: reduction in the number of sick days that families must use to care for their sick children. The estimated cost of artificial feeding (formula feed) is four times that of breastfeeding. Concentrated and ready-to-feed formulas are even more expensive than powdered formula. Breastfeeding requires no packaging, and its production does not harm the environment: environmental sustainability!2

In conclusion, sustaining breastfeeding together is a call to action, to all including men and community leaders, to appreciate the importance of breastfeeding and how supporting lactating mothers can go a long way in benefiting mother, child and society at large at both short term and long-term. Until we put hands together to supporting breastfeeding, the #WorldWeWant cannot be actualized: A healthy world where every child is adequately breastfed.

Play your part!

References:

1. sustainable Development Goal: 17 Goals to transform our World. www.un,org/sustainabledevelopment   accessed on 1st August 2017

2. Nelson’s Text book of Paediatrics, 19th edition,  Elsevier Inc

3. World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action    http://worldbreastfeedingweek.orgaccessed on 1st August, 2017

4. Primary health care and Child Survival Strategies by Alice Nte;  Paediatrics and Child health in a tropical region by Azubuike J. & Nkangineme K.E.O 2nd Edition Published by African educational Services, Owerri.

 

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