Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival as it contains antibodies which protect them against common childhood illnesses.
The milk provides all the energy and nutrients needed for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Studies have shown that breastfeeding provides children with the best start in life. It also acts as a defence providing immunisation for infants.
Also, nutrition experts have said that exclusively breastfed children are less likely to be overweight and prone to diabetes later in life.
Breastfeeding has been identified as the foundation of child survival, health, growth and development as it provides every child with the best possible start in life.
Breast milk delivers health, nutritional and emotional benefits to both mother and child. It also forms part of a sustainable food system.
Breastfed babies have stronger immunity, reduced risk of infections and many childhood illnesses, and may also have longer-term health benefits including reduced risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence.
Studies have shown that obesity rates are 15-30 per cent lower in breastfed babies compared to formula-fed babies.
About 80,000 child deaths are reported to be prevented annually when optimal breastfeeding is practiced.
Mothers also benefit enormously from breastfeeding. It helps to prevent post-partum bleeding and lowers a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
It can even reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and it lessens the severity of postpartum depression.
The chairperson, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, FCT chapter, Dr. Florence Uchendu, said exclusive breastfeeding is giving a child breast milk only in the first six months of life.
“You can continue the breastfeeding until the child is two years old. After the six months, you can give the child all the other foods,” she said.
Uchendu explained that the yellowish milk that comes out first is what the baby is supposed to take at least one hour after delivery.
“It contains the immunity the child needs.
“The yellowish milk is the most important part of breast milk. That milk that some people throw away probably because they think it is dirty, I tell you, it is the most essential part of breast milk. This yellowish milk is what a child needs for the first six months of his life to protect him from infections and diseases,” she said.