Nnenne, a breastfeeding mother, shares her knowledge about colostrum.
Regardless exclusive breastfeeding and its benefits, a study has shown that only 37 per cent of children younger than 6 months are breastfed exclusively in low- and middle-income countries.
Coupled with that, there has been a great misunderstanding on the first milk produced by a mother who has just given birth. It is called colostrum.Colostrum is the first stage of breast milk. It is produced during pregnancy and lasts for several days after the birth of the baby. It is either yellowish or creamy in colourand much thicker than the milk that is produced later in breastfeeding.
Colostrum is high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are antibodies that pass from the mother to the baby and provide passive immunity for the baby. With all these benefits, one would wonder why mothers widely misunderstand colostrum.
Nnenne, is a 29 year-old mother of two. When I asked her if she knew what colostrum was and the importance of it, she did not just define it as the yellowish first milk the breast produces when a woman gives birth, but she also mentioned its value for the newborn.
I am not too surprised about Nnenne’s knowledge; she is a BSc holder, and evidence has shown that the level of education of a woman influences her decisions around maternal and newborn issues. I am more concerned about the mothers who do not have a high level of education to access information and make informed decisions. The chart below shows how the level of a woman’s education influences her health decisions.
Nnenne also said that mothers do not give their babies colostrum because they see it as being dirty. Although it has been proven to be the best for the newborn! The myth surrounding colostrum pushes mothers into ‘cleaning’ their breasts.Thus, it is important to highlight that the first few hours and days of breastfeeding are crucial to saving the lives of newborns, and to minimise the risk of life-threatening infections and illnesses.
Breastfeeding may also acts as a form of contraception known as Lactational Amenorrhoea Method (LAM). The lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) is a contraceptive method that uses a pattern of breastfeeding that can effectively prevent ovulation and prevent pregnancy. Women who can use LAM are those who are fully breastfeeding, have not had return of menses and are less than 6 months postpartum.
According to MamaYe’s facts and figures on breastfeeding, more than 800,000 infant lives could be saved every year if every baby was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding for up to two years.
The conclusion in a way fulfills this year’s theme of world breastfeeding week, which is “Breastfeeding, a key to sustainable development”.While new mothers may be a little hesitant, knowing that breastfeeding benefits both the child and the mother should definitely inspire them to practice exclusive breastfeeding.
How can a baby grow and develop in good health if all the basic nutrients needed are not provided? The provision of adequate nutrition during infancy and early childhood is a basic requirement for the development, growth and behavior of a baby. This is why breast milk remains the best food for infants, as it provides both nutrients and immune support, which contribute to optimal survival, growth and development.