Benefits of exclusive breast feeding
Breast feeding has a lot of benefits. The benefits are much more when the child is breast fed exclusively. It provides babies with essential nutrients and antibodies that protect them from malnutrition, prevent diseases and death.
Inspite of these benefits, exclusive breast feeding rates still remain low.
According to the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, the Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF) rate has shown only marginal increase from the very low rate of 2% in 1990 to 17% in 2013; and the current rate is 25% as reported in the 2014 National Nutrition and Health Surveys (NNHS).
He said: “The National Policy on Infant and Young Child Feeding describes exclusive breastfeeding as giving infants only breast milk in the first six months of life; no other liquids, drinks, semi-solids or solids, and not even-water except oral rehydration solution or drops/ syrups of vitamins, minerals or medicines as prescribed by the physician.”
“The benefits of unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding practices as initiated within an hour from birth results in ample milk production to sustain the infants; (except for a few medical conditions), lead to 87% preventable deaths in infants younger than 6 months (2016 Lancet series on Breastfeeding), reduces infant mortality associated with common childhood illnesses like diarrhoea or pneumonia and ensures quicker recovery from illnesses.
“The mother also benefits maximally in child spacing, reduction of ovarian and breast cancers, and ensuring rapid maternal weight loss after birth,” the minister said.
The Yobe State Commissioner of Health, Dr Muhammad Bello Kawuwa said that early initiation rates and exclusive breast-feeding to infants and young children has remained very low in Yobe State.
The commissioner disclosed this, during a press briefing to mark this year’s World Breast-feeding Week in Damaturu.
He said the poor practice was due to barriers brought by myths and beliefs at village level, and sometimes healthcare system practices by professionals that may not ‘intentionally’ or ‘unintentionally’ support optimal Breastfeeding practices.
The Commissioner said the ministry had received reports that there was a belief among poor mothers, in both urban and rural areas, that infant formula was best for their infants.
He noted that the task before all stakeholders in the breast-feeding crusade was to make the mothers/ women understand, appreciate and be more aware of the importance of breastfeeding, and it’s benefit for mothers and the children.
Kawuwa said for over 30 years, voluminous body of scientific research had conclusively shown that breast milk is the gold standard’ when it comes to infant nutrition.
He also revealed that the research has attributed neonatal and child mortality, poor growth and nutrition status, lower scores on cognitive development and intelligence tests, and increased risk of chronic diseases to artificial feeding such as formula milk.