Breast milk is a natural nutritious food from God, which every woman has after giving birth. It has all the goodness a child needs to grow up healthy and strong and it is free. Mothers can save the cost of buying and feeding their babies with imported baby foods which do not have the nutritional, health and development benefits when compared to Breast milk. Also known as the “first marklate” because of the anti bodies it carries to protect the child from diseases.
You can keep your baby healthy and strong with breast milk. Act now!
Health professionals believe that if you want your infant to survive, grow and develop properly they require the right nutrients and breast milk has been proven to have all the nutrients and goodness your child needs. Lanre Olagunju, a hydrologist turned freelance journalist says;
Breast milk is rich in nutrients and anti-bodies and contains the right quantities of fat, sugar, water and protein. These nutrients are major prerequisites to the health and survival of the baby.
In Sierra Leone, less than half (45%) of newborn babies are fed within the first hour of life and only a third (32%) are fed with only breast milk up to six months of age (MICS 2010). This is very low even when compared with other low-income countries, such as Malawi, where almost all babies (95%) are fed within the first hour after birth and two thirds of them are fed with breast milk only up to the age of 6 months (DHS 2010).
Increasing breastfeeding rates
To increase breastfeeding rates in Sierra Leone, the government with support from the civil society platform is advocating for a Code for Breast milk Substitutes (CBMS) in line with other countries that signed up to global commitments for nutrition. This code will prohibit companies from promoting breast milk substitutes as the best food for babies when evidence shows that breast milk is best. It is readily available and safe.
Ideal food for healthy growth
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes breastfeeding as an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with positive health benefits for mothers.
Report has shown from WHO lens that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter, infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
Key recommendations by WHO and UNICEF for better health and development outcomes for mother and child include the following:
- Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life
- Exclusive breastfeeding – that is the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water –from 0 to 6 months.
- Breastfeeding on demand – that is as often as the child wants, day and night.
- No use of bottles, teats or pacifiers
When a child is exclusively breast fed, their immune system is strengthened. In fact, reports indicate that babies who are not breast fed for the first six months of life are 15 times more likely to die from Pneumonia compared to newborns that are breast fed exclusively for six months after birth.
WHO facts & figures
WHO estimates that around 220,000 children could be saved every year with exclusive breastfeeding. It recommends that colostrum, the yellowish sticky breast milk that is produced at the end of pregnancy as the ideal food for newborns; to be given within the first hour of birth, a process referred to as early initiation. Infants breast-fed within the first hour of birth are three times more likely to survive than those who have their first breast milk after a day.
As Sierra Leone will join rest of the world to observe World Breastfeeding Week 1st-7th August, FOCUS 1000 and Scaling Up Nutrition and Immunization Civil Society Platform (SUNI-CSP) call on Mothers and Fathers to keep babies safe and healthy through exclusive breastfeeding from zero to six months and for mothers to continue breast feeding up top two years to compliment other foods after six months.