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Breast is Best!

It has become increasingly common to hear young mothers express their objection to adopting exclusive breast feeding, moreso for  the medically prescribed duration.
The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months as the optimal way of feeding infants.Thereafter infants are to receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.

Breast milk is the natural first food for babies, it provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs 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.

Breast milk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness.
To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, WHO and UNICEF recommend:
  • Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life
  • Exclusive breastfeeding – that is the infant only receives breast milkmiwithout any additional food or drink, not even water
  • Breastfeeding on demand – that is as often as the child wants, day and night
  • No use of bottles, teats or pacifiers

Many women however  frown at the mere sound of exclusive breastfeeding for reasons such as cosmetics, talking about the sagging effect of breastfeeding on their breasts mainly. Does breastfeeding actually cause your breasts to sag, or affect the shape or firmness of the breast in any way?

The Fact is...
During pregnancy, the ligaments that support the breasts might stretch as the breasts get fuller and heavier. This stretching could contribute to sagging breasts after pregnancy — whether or not you breastfeed your baby. Sagging breasts may become more noticeable with subsequent pregnancies.

Other factors however also contribute to sagging breasts, including aging and smoking , both of which reduce skin elasticity. Being overweight and having large breasts can have a similar effect.

There are few medical reasons why a nursing mother could be adviced against breastfeeding, for example in ,retro-viral disease positive patients, in order to prevent Mother-Child transmission, even in such cases Mothers could still opt to adopt exclusive breastfeed and stop abruptly and completely when other foods are to be introduced. Most mothers on medications for chronic conditions can breastfeed safely. - Please check with your Obstetrician.

It is important to note that Mothers make healthy milk even if their own eating habits are not nutritious. Tattoos, piercings and breast surgery often do not affect breastfeeding.

Even though it has numerous benefits, breastfeeding can have it's challenges. A common problem faced by first timers is sore nipples. If after a minute of breastfeeding, pain is felt , the positionong of the baby's mouth should be checked. It should cover more of the areola below the nipple than above with the chin and nose of the baby touching the breast with the lips splayed out. Lotions should be avoided when attempting to relieve dryness, water and breast milk are best for healing the nipples.

A hard breast lump, soreness or redness may be the result of a clogged duct. Long stretches between feeding should be avoided to prevent clogging. Warm water compress or light massage could help stimulate milk flow. Unrelieved clogs can however lead to mastitis.

So do not let the fear of manageable problems or that of sagging breasts stop you from breast-feeding. To help maintain the appearance of your breasts at any stage of life, make healthy lifestyle choices. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Eat a healthy diet. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit

Remember, breast is best for babies. Breastfeeding also contributes to the health and well-being of mothers; it indeed helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment.

Ref: WHO Nutrition,
        Mission Breastfeeding Centre,
        Mayo Clinic 2014

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