Mulinge: Importance of exclusive breastfeeding to mother, child

Mulinge: Importance of exclusive breastfeeding to mother, child
File image of a breastfeeding mother. PHOTO| COURTESY

By Eunice Mulinge

Every year from August 1-7, the World Breastfeeding Week is marked to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.

Under the theme: “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding,” this year the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are promoting family-friendly policies that allow for exclusive breastfeeding and nurturing of the bond between parents and their children.

Some of the family-friendly policies include enacting paid maternity and paternity leave as well as friendly working environments to support mothers’ ability to continue breastfeeding while at work.

UNICEF and WHO have been in the forefront in advocating exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) for six complete months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to feeding the baby on breast milk alone for the first six months excluding even water.

Employers are urged to allow new mothers to have a paid leave for at least 18 weeks (4 and ½ months). Besides that,  paid paternity leave is also important for the fathers to support the new mothers.

UNICEF and the WHO are advocating for a safe and hygienic space for expressing and storing the milk once they go back to work.

Exclusive breastfeeding has been found to have optimal benefits to the child and mother with studies showing that lack of enough breastfeeding costs the global economy almost $1 billion each day, through lost productivity and healthcare costs.

Here are some of the major benefits of exclusive breastfeeding:

1. Proper bonding between mother and baby that happens during the breastfeeding sessions.
2. Breast milk has the right nutrients in the right portions and is enough for the baby for the first six months it’s also in the right temperature.
3. Breast milk has been shown to increase immunity in exclusively breastfed babies. The antibodies present in the milk help the babies fight diseases and infections.
4. According to UNICEF, EBF has been found to reduce occurrence of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer in the future.
5. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed are likely to lose weight gained during pregnancy faster because breastfeeding exclusively can help you burn an average of 500 kilocalories per day.
6. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce chances of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers.

The above are just a representation of the many benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, which need to be supported by taking nutritious complementary foods.

Lactating mothers need well balanced meals with all food groups well incorporated and in the right portions.

They are encouraged to take plenty of water and warm fluids as well as take some breastfeeding ‘’super foods’’ such as oats, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, brewer’s yeast and dill seeds or consume products with the said ingredients.

Let’s also support lactating mothers emotionally and encourage them to practice exclusive breastfeeding (EBF).

The writer is a KNDI certified nutritionist. Email: [email protected]

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