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Exclusive breast-feeding: The pros and cons

By Chinwe Uzoechi

In spite of the growing campaign and advocacy by government and its agencies for mothers to adopt the practice of exclusive breatfeeding, there still seems to be quite a handful of reservations by nursing mothers about the practice.

 

These reservations however are not without reasons, ranging largely from economic, superstitions, through physiological reasons with most hinging on poor awareness level. However, these issues of reservation were integral parts of the just concluded World Breast Feeding Week in Imo State (World Breast Feeding Week was held from 1st to 7th August 2012, but Imo moved theirs to 1st to 7th September).

In the course of the week, the Imo State Commissioner for health, Dr. Joe Obi Njoku in clear terms harped on the indispensability of adequate exclusive breast feeding to a nursing mother and child. He stressed that nursing mothers who fail to adequately breast feed their baby were merely inviting trouble in the form of health challenges with life-long implications for their young ones.

In any case, mothers still found the forum to express their thoughts:

Mrs. Love Ezemeke – It is not easy to breast feed a baby for 6 months without water, take for instance when you are thirsty and drinks any other liquid apart from water you will agree with me that you will not be satisfied until you take water, so I still think it is the same with the baby. If exclusive breast feeding must be adhered to water should be included.

Mrs. Uchechi Dan – When I gave birth to my first child I tried it for 3 months but couldn’t continue because it wasn’t easy. My mum kicked against it and warned me never to starve my baby of water that any child that will be healthy will whether exclusively breast fed or not so I had to stop because according to my mum, she never did that to any of my siblings and we all are healthy. So I see that as starving the child of water.

Mrs. Ogechi Iwu – When I tried it with my first child for one month, I couldn’t continue because each time I finish breast feeding her, my eyes will start turning me and I will feel like fainting, not that I don’t feed well, but I couldn’t help it than to stop, so to me I think it still has its disadvantages either on the mother or on the baby.

Mrs. Chinyere Ogu – Exclusive breast feeding will make one add weight, in the sense that you will eat much because you have to feed your baby every 2 hours, and when you don’t eat well, the breast milk will not be enough for the baby. So you have to eat for two people, like when you want to take tea, you will make sure that the tea will be thick enough with milk and milk adds weight so, I still want to look young and sexy after giving birth that’s why I don’t think I can practice that.

Mrs. Ijeoma Ekele – I feel breast feeding your baby alone sags the breasts not to talk of breast feeding her every now and then. My dear it will cause my breasts to sag and that I don’t want so I will combine breast feeding with other baby foods. That is not bad, if not why does NAFDAC still allow the sale of these baby foods in our various market place? Veriety they say it is the spices of life, I think my baby has every right to enjoy other baby foods.

Having duly considered the reservation of some mothers, the Imo Health Commissioner noted that this year’s World Breast Feeding Day was one of stock taking and planning on what more can be done to support all women in Imo State to be able to feed and care for their children by practicing Exclusive Breast Feeding for six months and appropriate complementary food introduction at six months and continued breast feeding for two years or more.

While urging fathers to adequately support their wives during the lactating period, the Commissioner noted that breastfeeding is the mother’s first responsibility to the child and a very important part of a child’s life.

Exclusive Breast Feeding, he said, creats a close attachment between mother and child and while protecting mothers against the cancer of the breast, it protects the child against killer diseases. While observing that mortality of children under the age of 5 is higher among children who were not exclusively breast fed, the commissioner regretted that Imo State records only about 8.9 percent compliances in the exclusively breastfeeding practice.

These he described as unencouraging. Further findings also indicate that Exclusive Breast Feeding helps mothers trim down their weight and reduce adiposity (adding fat).

Authorities have also dismissed the uniformed claims of some mothers that certain stages of breast milk are unhealthy for the child rather findings maintained that only poor nutrition on the part of the mother could render the breast milk less nutritious. It also emphasizes high level of hygiene on the part of nursing mothers.

On the issue of sagging the mothers’ breasts, exclusive breast feeding helps expel the milk load in the breast which is what actually weights down the breasts until lactation recedes.

On the contrary, when the breast milk that should have been fed the baby is allowed to accumulate in the breasts during lactation, the unexpelled milk due to poor breast feeding is what weighs down the breasts. Breast feeding in essence is a practice that dates back to the beginning of time, even lower animals breastfeed their young ones. Any trend therefore that seeks to substitute exclusive breastfeeding with alternative baby foods within the first six months of child birth may pre-dispose the mother and child to severe consequences.

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