BY BLESSING BATURE
…..though exclusive breastfeeding is said to be the best for the child, some mothers strongly disagree even as a new study posits that the WHO recommended six-months-long exclusive breast-feeding is even dangerous for the child.
Exclusive breastfeeding connotes that baby receives only breast milk without any other liquid substances including water except oral rehydration solutions.
The World Health Organization (WHO), recommends that exclusive breastfeeding should be practiced by nursing mothers for six straight months from the day of birth. After this period, infants should be given complementary foods alongside breast milk up to two years of age.
However, new studies rather now state that six months exclusive breastfeeding is too long and could harm babies. As reported in the British Medical journal, doctors from several leading child health institutes say the evidence for the WHO guidance was never there, and that failing to start weaning babies on to solids before six months could be dangerous to the baby.
According to the doctors, evidence that was unavailable when the WHO made its recommendation suggest such babies have a greater chance of iron deficiency anemia, known to be linked to irreversible adverse mental, motor or psychological out comes. Other evidence, they say, suggest that babies not introduced to certain foods earlier than six months will have a higher incidence of food allergies.
Despite the disagreement on the duration of exclusive breastfeeding, the importance of mothers giving their babies enough breast milk is overly evident.
A nursing officer with the Umaru Sanda General Hospital in Bida, Niger State. Mr Yusuf Nasir is of the opinion that mothers should protect babies from infectious diseases like diarrhea and be able to fight against breast cancer with exclusive breastfeeding. “The advantages are more than the disadvantages. After the six months of breastfeeding, you see the baby very healthy and breast-feeding also has very good advantage to the mother.
“It creates a very good bond between the child and the mother when the mother is away and the child is crying, the mother knows, whatever nutrition the baby needs is complete in the breast milk.
“Breast milk is also very important as it is nutritious, contains essential nutrients for protection against childhood illnesses and creates a strong bond between the mother and baby,’’ Nasir added.
According to the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria ranks lowest in African in compliance with exclusive breastfeeding. Worried by this, a medical personnel Mrs Mareze Eziako stressed the need for nursing mothers to adhere to the exclusive breast-feeding practice.
Mrs Eziako noted that a well-practiced breastfeeding method will ensure a better growth for the infants.
Speaking with our correspondent, a mother, Mrs Ben Odesi explained that exclusive breastfeeding has immense benefits on the up bring of the child. She said it enhances infant’s immune system, thus preventing them from falling sick often and equip them to be intelligent.
It should be noted that the application of infant food formulas by parents has played a strong part in the whittling of breastfeeding by mothers. With the advent of infant food formula and greater knowledge of hygienic preparation, artificial feeding became less of a risk and morphed into a lucrative, even essential, safety net in times of trouble, and is still viewed in those terms today.
According to Mrs Odesi “I realise that modern formula is a boon in circumstances where breast-feeding is not possible; however having something available for the few babies who need it is a different prospect to the scary possibility that artificial feeding is replacing a superbly adapted evolutionary system that has nourished humans. Formula doesn’t, and never will, contain the variety of nutrient and immunological factors that are found in breast milk.”
Mrs Gloria Okafor a business woman is totally against exclusive breastfeeding. She described it as filled with side effects. “After the exclusive breast-feeding, the child will refuse solid foods, they will be only use to liquid substances though the child may be sharp academically, but difficult to respond or play back to their mates,” Mrs Okafor said.
She disclosed that she has five children whom she did not exclusively breast fed, adding that she does not believe that her children were disadvantaged for her not being ‘baby friendly.’
“My children are all doing well, academically and otherwise. I learnt recently that a child not breast fed exclusively for six months without water or food, tend to have higher quality IQ (intelligence quotient), well that is their view. Even if it is scientifically proven, I didn’t do it and I don’t think I would recommend any of my children to do it,” Mrs Okafor said.
Mr Okafor queried the exclusive breastfeeding idea thus: “A woman who puts to bed today doesn’t have milk in the mammary gland for some days, so what happens to the baby in those days when there is no breast milk, should the baby go hungry?”