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Eugene Afreku Boafo writes: Don’t put your babies at risk, breastfeed them exclusively

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Have you wondered why some babies are more prone to getting certain diseases after few months of birth and others don’t? And also, why breastfeeding is of public health concern?

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1st to 7th of August of every year marks world breastfeeding day globally, each year’s annual celebration comes with a theme. The theme for the 2021 breastfeeding annual celebration is ‘Protect Breastfeeding: A shared responsibility”. The campaign seeks to educate the public especially pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers about the need to breast their babies to help improve their health status.

Breastfeeding is also termed nursing. It is defined as giving your baby breast milk directly from the breast during the first hour of life and to up to 6 months.

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The World Health Organization, WHO, the American Academy of Pediatrics, APP recommends that lactating mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively for about 6 months without the addition of any other foods until the baby is a year or two old.

The APP also suggests the mothers could gradually introduce solid foods, water, and other baby formulae after; the baby is more than 6 months to a year old. Statistics show that, out of 5 babies born 3 of them are not fed with breast milk in the first hour of life.

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About 41% of infants aged 0 to 6 months are fed exclusively with breast milk globally. The lives of about 820,000 babies could have been saved if these babies were fed with breast milk exclusively for about 3 months and more.

In Ghana, only one out of two (2) babies are breastfed within an hour of their life. Her Excellency the First Lady of the Republic of Ghana in collaboration with the Ministry of Health launched the Start Right, Feed Right” campaign last year in the celebration of world breastfeeding day. The aim of the campaign was to promote good nutrition for young babies through exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months.

Benefits of breastfeeding

The breast milk is rich in nutrients, antioxidants, enzymes and antibodies, and anti-inflammatory agents, growth factors, and prebiotics which help with the normal growth of babies and also to address the issue of unnecessary death among infants. Breastfeeding has dual benefits for both mothers and babies.

For babies, antibodies present in breastmilk helps fight infections that are being caused by bacterial, viruses, and protozoal. It also helps reduce the risk of asthma, obesity, Gastrointestinal tract infections, and otitis media. It reduces some cardiovascular disorders and diabetes in the later lives of these children.

A study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal found out that breast milk also plays an essential role in neuro and cognitive development. Studies also suggest that kids who were breastfed for 3months and above tend to have high IQ scores.

Breastfeeding is also beneficial to mothers. It helps the mother to burn extra calories hence help in the reduction of weights associated with pregnancy. It is also cost-effective and saves time considering the cost of the baby formulae and the time involved in the preparation of these baby foods.

Breastfeeding gives enough time for the mother to bond with their babies. Research also reveals that mothers who breastfeed exclusively having a reduced risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancers later in their lives. It also lowers the risk of osteoporosis. Studies also show that also breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular diseases including High Blood Pressure and high lipid levels.

Exclusive breastfeeding serves as a natural form of contraception, this delays the return of the mother’s menstrual period which can help her space the time between pregnancies.
In conclusion, exclusive breastfeeding is very crucial and so the media in collaboration with appropriate stakeholders create awareness to the general public about the need to breastfeed.

Author: Eugene Afreku Boafo | Pharmacist Intern, University of Ghana School of Pharmacy

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