Breastfeeding plays a major role in the ability to procreate and ensure the progeny of species survives the adverse environment that permeates the habitat of man, the Homo sapiens. The use of denatured and preserved cow’s milk which is depleted of natural factors that promote human health is a negative factor in its development.
The natural instinct of mammals is to protect, nurse and enhance the health of its progeny by breastfeeding her infants. Westernisation and social circumstances have shifted focus away from the endowed and innate natural breastfeeding phenomenon to the use of formula feed.
Formula feed is not sustainable; it does not improve the health of child rearing and Infant illness and death will increase due to many factors. It is in the domain of politics that sustained approach to breastfeeding could be altered. It could be altered by continuous enlightenment of the populace by the policy makers as to the unparalleled advantage of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life.
What are the advantages?
The World health Organisation advocates that infants the world over should be breastfed exclusively from birth to six months of age. Breastfeeding is supported by extensive evidence for short-term and long-term health benefits, for both mother and baby.
Babies who are not fully breastfed for the first three to four months are more likely to suffer from significant levels of health problems such as gastroenteritis, respiratory and ear infections, urinary tract infections, failure to thrive, allergies and diabetes mellitus.
Breastfed infants survive better than non- breastfed. The risk of infant morbidity and mortality improves. Breastfeeding reduces hospitalisation rate. It reduces sudden infant syndrome death rate. It reduces the risk of childhood cancer of the blood called leukaemia.
The initial breast fluid secretion in the few hours of birth called colostrum confers immunogenic advantage over formula fed infants. It reduces the risk of later type 2 diabetes and reduces childhood obesity and cardiovascular risk.
Economically, savings are made from buying formula feed both individually and by the government. Few governments subsidise formula feed but yet the women choose to bottle feed their babies. Women who do not breast fed do have their reasons. They are avulsed to it due loss of their privacy in the process, disfiguring of breast architecture, the absence of conducive environments to breastfeeding and negative perception including unfriendly employment practices. Health education and peer support interventions can result in some improvements in the number of uptake to breast feeding in those that are avulsed to it.
The longer the duration of breastfeeding, the more the advantage that is accrued to the baby and the mother. Breastfeeding lowers the mother’s risk to many cancers including breast cancer and ovarian cancer. One can imagine the resources that the nation will save by preventing these cancers just by breastfeeding. It prevents weak bones (osteoporosis) in the mothers and reduces cardiovascular diseases. Breastfeeding mothers are less obese and may be less busting.
Only 17% in Nigeria practice exclusive breastfeeding and 38% of babies born by Nigerians who reside in Nigeria breastfeed their babies within 1 hour of birth.
Many westernised mothers believe that breastfeeding sags the breast but stretching of breast ligament occurs during pregnancy as a result of pregnancy hormones. Publicly exposing the breast during breastfeeding were seeing as a ‘’dirty act”’ but research has shown otherwise. The more the exposure of the breast, the more the acceptance of the practice by the public; therefore, a pregnant woman in most countries cannot be accused of indecent exposure as the law protects them.
Some women may believe that their breast milk is not adequate but ordinarily commencing early breastfeeding at frequent intervals will provide adequate feed to a newborn. Equally, a wrong perception is that a breastfeeding mother should not have sex or it may reduce libido. This is not true. Occasional dryness may be experienced but with longer foreplay, this may be surmounted. Breastfeeding is said to be painful to the mother, but it is the wrong positioning that causes pain, this is solved by training on the appropriate positioning of the baby.
The shape of the nipple doesn’t have any effect on the baby. A flat or inverted nipple is not a deterrent to breastfeeding. The babies can easily manipulate the various nipple shapes to suit the mouth.
With breastfeeding, health of the children will improve. The children will grow into healthy adults in both mental and physical status. Healthy adults will develop into good citizens. Good citizens will transform into good leaders and good followers thereby reducing social tensions and social misfits. Good leaders will manage healthy nations; healthy nations will transform into a prosperous world; a prosperous world will indeed transform into an improved humanity.
Mothers and nations must therefore support and maintain the policy of breastfeeding as to achieving one of the goals of sustainable development. Many hospitals in Nigeria and South Africa support exclusive breastfeeding.