Mothers and aspiring mothers need to know the enormous benefits of breastfeeding. It might just be the encouragement they need to go through the period successfully. There is no better time to support and promote breastfeeding than now; the World Breastfeeding week which kicked off from 1st to 7th August, 2022. The theme for this year’s commemoration is, ‘Step up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support’. Breast milk is nature’s wonder that contains all the nutrient your baby need at each stage of life.
THE BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING
According to the World Health Organization, about 2 out of 3 children are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6months. Despite the many benefits of breastfeeding, the uptake of exclusive breastfeeding has not improved. According to the Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey data of 2018, only 29% of babies were exclusively breastfed, 22% of babies under 6months had breast milk with complimentary foods, 48% had breast milk with other liquids while 2% were not breastfed.
According to the United States of America Centre for Disease Control in 2019, about 24.9% of babies under 6months had exclusive breastfeeding while 35.3% had supplemental infant formula with breastfeeding. These statistics are not encouraging.
The benefits of breastfeeding to the baby include:
- Immunity to the baby; it provides protection to the baby from infectious agents the mother was exposed to.
- Plays a role in the development of a healthy intestinal flora that helps to reduce allergy, inflammatory bowel disease and diarrhoea disease
- Early breastfeeding promote tolerance and reduces the incidence of food allergies
- The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid found in breast milk that is belief to help in visual and brain development of both the unborn and breastfed babies.
- Exclusively breastfed babies tend to have higher intelligence quotient (IQ)
- Breastfeeding can be used to comfort the baby; the fastest way to stop a baby from crying is breastfeeding.
The benefits of breastfeeding to the mother include:
- Reduces the risk of breast cancer
- Reduces the risk of ovarian cancer
- Prevent bleeding after delivery
- Help in losing the additional weight gained during the pregnancy period.
- Encourage mother and child bonding
To the environment, breastfeeding is eco-friendly as it does not generate waste for disposal.
It is recommended that breastfeeding should be initiated immediately after delivery, as soon as the mother is stable. It is recommended to start within 30 minutes to 1hours of delivery even if the delivery was by caesarean section. Breastfeeding should be on demand or every 2 to 3hour. You may have to wake your baby up to breastfeed, if the baby sleeps for more than 3hrs. Breastfeeding should be exclusive; giving only breast milk for 6months either directly from the breast or expressed breast milk. Complimentary feeds should be introduced at 6months. Breastfeeding should continue for one year and beyond.
For women with hepatitis B virus infection, breastfeeding should start immediately after the baby receives hepatitis B virus immunoglobulin and vaccine. For HIV positive patient that opted for breastfeeding, the baby should be given antiretroviral medication for pre-exposure prophylaxis before initiating breastfeeding. HIV expose babies on prophylaxis should be breastfed exclusively till 6months. Complimentary feed should be introduced thereafter with breastfeeding continuing till one year.
COMPOSITION OF BREAST MILK
The composition of the breast milk changes with time and feeding. The first milk is called the colostrum which is produced within the first 4days after delivery. Its colour varies depending on maternal dietary level of β-carotene. It might be yellow, orange or light brown. After 4days, the transitional milk takes over. The mature milk starts 14days after delivery. The mature milk is composed of the foremilk and the hind milk.
The foremilk is predominantly fluid and the hind milk is high in fat. The baby needs to suck for at least 30minutes to get the both components of the mature milk. The hind milk is responsible for satiation. Babies will cry often if they do not stay long on the breast to get the hind milk. Ensure the baby empties one breast before changing to the next.
Also, the breast milk is composed of macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients, growth factors and enzymes. One of my trainers describe the breast milk as, ‘’milk a life’’ due to the presence of the enzymes. The enzyme lipase helps the child to handle the digestion of fat. The macro-nutrients include; carbohydrate with oligosaccharide inclusive, oligosaccharide promote the growth of favourable bacteria that protects the baby’s intestine; protein and fat.
The micro-nutrients consist of vitamins, calcium, iron and zinc. The growth factors such as epidermal growth factor, platelet derived growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor and insulin-like growth factor.
Furthermore, breast milk is specific to the mother. It contains immunoglobulin A, E G and M. The immunoglobulins contained in breast milk depend on the maternal exposure to infectious agents. These are passed to the baby to provide passive immunity to prevent infection and allergy.
TECHNIQUES OR POSITIONING FOR BREASTFEEDING
There are several techniques of breastfeeding, the common one is the sit up position.
- The mother sit upright with her back well supported
- The back of the baby’s head in front of her elbow
- Her open palm supports the buttock of the baby
- The mother brings the baby to the breast and not bend towards the baby. Note that bad posturing will cause back ache and affect the breast feeding experience.
- A pillow can also be placed on the mother’s thigh for support too.
- With the other hand, the mother can support the breast with her four fingers beneath and the thumb above the breast. Note that this is just to support the breast and not for pressing or milking the breast. Pressing the breast will obstruct the milk duct.
WHAT CONSTITUTE A PROPER LATCH ON?
Proper latch on or attachment to the breast during breastfeeding ensures that the baby is getting the breast milk. If the baby is not properly latched, the child will be suckling on the nipple and this can result in cracked nipple. Proper latch on consist of the following;
- The baby’s lips should be wide open and everted
- The baby’s lips should cover most of the areola which is the pigmented part of the breast after the nipple
- There should be no suckling sound. If you hear this, the baby is not properly latch
- You should hear swallowing sound
- You can also see milk at the angle of the baby’s mouth.
PROBLEMS OF EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING
The problems of breastfeeding are outlined below;
- Not enough milk production
- The belief that breast milk is not enough for babies
- Sore or cracked nipple
- Breasts engorgement
- Breast abscess
- unsupportive work policies