Breast milk, best foundation for the start of a child’s life
By Ann Wambui
I remember the stories my mum told me of when I was a child. That I breast fed more than my siblings and I was the healthiest especially in the first year (not that afterwards I fell ill or anything).
Newborns are required to be breastfed within an hour after birth to increase the chances of survival and also beneficial to the mother as it decreases the risk to die. Mothers are strongly encouraged to EXCLUSIVELY breast feed for the first six months. This type of feeding helps young children grow, prevents malnutrition, promotes brain development, and reduces the risk of a child becoming overweight.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated globally every August 1 to August 7, to raise awareness of the benefits that breastfeeding can bring to both the health and welfare of babies. It also highlights maternal health, good nutrition, poverty reduction and food security.
According to World Health Organization, improving breastfeeding practices could save the lives of 823,000 children under age five every year. Worldwide, only about 2 out of 5 of all newborns are put to the breast within an hour of birth, while only 40 per cent of children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed.
While mothers are recommended to feed their children breast milk exclusively for 6 months, there comes challenges. These include; HIV positive mothers, lack of support and quality care from health facilities, “cutting of milk” that is sometimes caused by stressed, demanding schedules at work e.t.c. Nutritious foods are then introduced while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years or beyond.
Some recommendations include, mandatory paternal and maternal leave to facilitate ample time to bond with the child. HIV patients are also advised to breastfeed while taking medication for that period. Women should make it a point to deliver in health centers to ensure that the child gets the vaccines and care at birth. New mothers should avoid stress as much as possible to prevent milk from “cutting”.
Breastfeeding; Foundation of Life as the theme of 2018’s breastfeeding week, World Health Organization, United Nations International Children Emergency Fund and other organizations globally are pushing to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
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