Jinja: The journey of motherhood begins with a precious gift – breastfeeding. One of the most profound ways to ensure a child’s health and survival is through exclusive breastfeeding, a practice of providing only breast milk to a baby for the first six months of life, without any other food or liquids.
The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes the vital importance of breastfeeding, estimating that scaling it up to nearly universal levels could save the lives of 820,000 children annually. Currently, only 40% of infants under the age of six months globally receive exclusive breastfeeding. However, WHO aims to raise this percentage to at least 50% by 2025, recognizing the immense benefits it bestows upon both mother and child.
For Akiita Jackie, the journey of exclusive breastfeeding had its challenges, but she persevered. “For the first three days after giving birth, I had trouble producing enough breast milk. I eventually tried using formula milk, but my baby wasn’t taking much of it. I had to consume the meals advised by my mother and doctors, such as porridge and greens, to boost my milk production. Soon, I was producing so much milk that it would stain my clothes if I didn’t wear breast pads. I chose to pump when I began working again, ensuring my baby received the nourishment of breast milk even in my absence.”
The significance of breastfeeding begins immediately after childbirth. The United Nations Children’s Fund recommends breastfeeding within the first hour of delivery to allow the newborn to consume colostrum, the thick, yellowish milk rich in essential nutrients and antibodies. Colostrum protects the infant from allergies, illnesses, and infections, providing a strong foundation for their health.
Doctor Outa Collins of Bridgestone Health Access affirms the numerous health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for both mother and child. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer for mothers, acts as a natural birth control method, aids in postpartum recovery, and strengthens the mother-child bond. For infants, breast milk offers a well-balanced diet, protection against childhood diseases, and a clean source of nourishment.
Addressing myths surrounding breastfeeding, Doctor Collins dispels misconceptions. “Many educated women consider breastfeeding outdated, but the truth is that infants require breast milk for their optimal growth and development. Breastfeeding doesn’t cause sagging breasts; instead, it nurtures a special bond between mother and child. To prevent sores on breasts, proper support and positioning during breastfeeding are essential.”
However, Doctor Collins emphasizes that exclusive breastfeeding can have complications if not done properly. Severe breast engorgement and mastitis can occur if the mother is not breastfeeding correctly. Overfeeding may lead to infant diarrhea or constipation, and improper latching may cause milk to come out of the baby’s nose.
For mothers who cannot breastfeed due to various reasons, Doctor Collins advises using infant formula under specific circumstances. He highlights the need for exceptional cleanliness in formula feeding to prevent infections in newborns. Moreover, he cautions against using formula if a mother cannot estimate the proper proportions, as it may cause constipation and jaundice in the baby.