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Last week, the world celebrated World Breastfeeding Week with the theme: “Intensify breastfeeding: educate and support”. This is an awareness initiative on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.
In a joint statement from the United Nations International Fund for Children’s Education (UNICEF). Executive Director Catherine Russell and World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, global bodies noted that, as “global crises continue to threaten the health and nutrition of millions of babies”. and children, the vital importance of breastfeeding as the best possible start in life is more critical than ever”.
The statement further notes that breastfeeding ensures a safe, nutritious and accessible food source for babies and young children. However, only 44% of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life, below the World Health Assembly target of 50% by 2025.
In addition, the Rivers State government has emphasized the need for nursing mothers to engage in exclusive breastfeeding to promote healthy growth of the baby. This was in a goodwill message delivered by the Deputy Governor of the State, Dr. Ipalibo Banigo, on the occasion of Breastfeeding Week.
The Deputy Governor noted that breast milk is a natural food and ensures a baby’s health and quality of life from infancy to adulthood.
Exclusive breastfeeding of babies from birth is known as feeding infants solely from breast milk, either directly or from the breast or expressed, with the exception of drops or syrups consisting of vitamins, supplements minerals or drugs.
In a recent study published in July 2022, Dan Brennon, pediatrician, lactation consultant, specialist in newborn care and professor of medicine, said that exclusive breastfeeding contains antibodies that help the baby fight viruses and bacteria. This reduces the baby’s risk of asthma or allergies. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and episodes of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and doctor visits.
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) has stated that exclusive breastfeeding also plays a role in preventing IDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), reduces the risk of diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and is also linked to a higher intelligence quotient (IQ).
After exclusively breastfeeding for six months, many experts recommend continuing breastfeeding for the baby’s first year of life.
To obtain quality breast milk for babies, recommended foods for breastfeeding mothers include protein foods 2-3 times a day such as meat, poultry, fish (e.g. salmon, tuna, since the Docasa hexanoic acid (DHA) is an important omega 3 fatty acid needed by babies for brain development), eggs, dairy products, beans, nuts and seeds, dark green and yellow vegetables daily. At least two servings of fruit a day. Also, whole grains such as whole wheat breads, pastas, cereals and oatmeal. Also, enough water.
The question now is, with the economic downturn in many countries and especially in Nigeria, can breastfeeding mothers eat well to engage in exclusive breastfeeding?.
In an interview with The Tide, a nutritionist at Port Harcourt University Hospital, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the first thing to do as a breastfeeding mother is to allow the baby to nurse all the time to help stimulate breast production. Milk. She added that mothers need to eat well for exclusive breastfeeding to be achieved, but due to the economic situation cheaper foods can be eaten. They include locally made rice and fish pepper soup, porridge, Guinea corn and millet; they are all good. Nursing mothers should drink plenty of warm water and consume enough fluids. We do not advise breastfeeding mothers to take palm wine,” she noted.
In another interview with a breastfeeding mother/midwife, Mrs Gloria Ugochukwu, who had her baby a week ago, said she had started exclusive breastfeeding but could stop at three months. due to the economic situation.
“According to her, ‘I exclusively breastfed my first baby for six months, that was in 2020. Then we had enough money to play. My husband brought all the necessary food products for me to eat properly. I drank enough drinks, milk, porridge. I ate rice with enough vegetables, meat, fish and lots of fruit like apples to help the baby. Also, palm wine for the first month which helped the breast milk flow. Now with this current baby things are expensive so we have to opt for additional items which are cheaper like cowbell or milky powdered milk instead of peak and then cornflakes. For fruits, no question of apples, instead, I take cucumber, tigernuts, also palm wine. I also take routine medications like blood tablets and vitamins.
With this second baby, my husband and I agreed that I would breastfeed for three months and return to work so that I could help the family by earning my full salary.
Exclusive breastfeeding was a bit scary and very difficult with my first baby, but I’m glad I did it because my baby didn’t get sick at all during those six months.
Also speaking to The Tide on the phone, Ms. Jennifer Peters, a nursing mother and civil servant, residing in Kaduna Metropolis, said she was breastfeeding strictly and was happy with it, despite it being her first time.
According to her, “I eat very well, mainly rice, vegetables, beans, enough fruits, instead of yams which are expensive. Drinks are also expensive now, I take Dano milk instead of peak milk. Regardless of the economic situation, I will continue exclusive breastfeeding for six months.
She added that after four months of maternity leave, she would return to work but take her baby to the office as there is a crèche for babies.
She also added that during the three months that she exclusively breastfed her baby, apart from the routine vaccines given to the baby in the hospital, they did not visit the hospital for any illness.
Also speaking to The Tide, the Medical Director of Laden Clinic, Rumuogba, Rivers State, Dr Onyii Ukegbu argued that exclusive breastfeeding is much better than formula, despite the situation. economy of the country.
Dr. Ukegbu advised breastfeeding mothers to stick to exclusive breastfeeding for six months to avoid illnesses that could endanger the baby’s health.
She added that breastfeeding mothers can make soups with a mixture of crayfish and “sogu” fish, which is cheap with vegetables and eba. Those in the villages are better off, she says. They can eat plantains with enough vegetables, snails and other protein foods instead of opting for cow’s milk.

By: Ibinabo Ogolo


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