By Ogechukwu Agwu
Breast milk contains virtually all the essential nutrients like fats, vitamins, carbohydrates and most importantly protein needed to keep a baby healthier, stronger and serve as the building block for the body tissue.
Consultant Paediatrician, Dr Akin Mustapha, stated that the first 1000 days of life is from the time of conception to the time of delivery, from the first year to the second year of life. It is a very critical period for the development of the child, “because the brain is so vital, and determines everything that you can achieve in life. The nutritional needs of the baby are well known to us, they need protein, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins. These are all well represented in the breast milk. The infant formula most women use, also contain them though different in proportion depending on which one we are giving.
“The time you introduce complementary food, have effect on the kind of food the child will be able to take later in infancy. Those children that are breastfed exclusively for six months, before they start to take complementary feeding, later in life some researchers have shown that those children are likely to take some food better than some other children that did not take breast milk up to six months.
“We notice that children that take exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, their weight gain is a bit slower within the normal range that we want, and do not to lead to obesity. Whereas several children that use formula milk, gain weight faster in infancy and they also tend to be obese later in childhood and later in adulthood. So, the kind of feeding during the first six months determines what the child will take after six months and also have effect on the health of the baby in infancy and also in later life.”
According to him, breast milk has been described as the communication vehicle between the maternal immune system and the infant, it contains wide range of bioactive factors which include immunoglobulin, lymphocy. These are all needed to help the baby fight infection and they are contained in breast milk. Many infant formulas do not have these nutrients, so lt can be said that these formulas, are not as protected as breast milk.
There have been so many researches that showed that, children that were exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to have diarrhoea compared to those that were given infant formula. also children that were breastfed, are less likely to have tract infection, including pneumonia compared to those that were not breastfed or exclusively breastfed. Those that are breastfed, are prevented from type 2 diabetes compared to those that are fed with infant formula. Breastfed infants have been shown to have lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, highblood pressure etc.
Consultant Paediatrician, Lagos University Teaching Hospital(LUTH), Prof. Christy Okoromah, revealed that according to United Nations International Children Education Fund(UNICEF), 1.7 million deaths in Nigerian children below 5 years of age are associated with malnutrition problem. “Pneumonia, diarrhea are possible sicknesses that kill our children. There is scarcity of non-governmental organization(NGO) to create awareness on prevention of pneumonia. Most NGOs focus their attention on HIV neglecting other diseases, that has lead to death, infant mortality 85/1000, childhood mortality 32/1000.”
She said, children get obese because they might be eating what they are not supposed to eat or they might be over-eating what they are suppose to eat as there is need to strike a balance in intake of protein. “Breastfeeding affects body composition, reduces risk of obesity later in childhood and adulthood by 15 to 20 per cent compared to no breastfeeding.”
Consultant Paediatrician, Dr Abimbola Mabogunje, said protein is a fundamental functional component for life, which is involved in maintaining body functions, replacing and repairing cells, tissues and growth. “The first month of a child, he/she needs 3.5 times more protein than adult, 4-6 months needs 60 per cent protein than adults, 6-12 month needs 40 per cent protein than adults.”
She said breastfeeding should be increased for many reasons including the primary prevention of overweight, obesity and undernutrition. “For infants that are not fully breastfed, an infant fomula with reduced protein quantity but high protein quality normalises early weight gain and appears preferable. Education of caregiver is key to ensuring healthy outcome and the unique opportunity of the first 1000 days should be used to help prevent health outcomes.”
Mr Dharnesh Gorghons, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Nestlé Nigeria Plc, said “we are pleased to play an active role in helping to address under-nutrition, over-nutrition and related micronutrient deficiencies, obesity and non-communicable diseases, pressing issues that affect billions of people around the world.”
He said investment in nutrition is important for the health of a nation and it has lifelong dividend both to individuals and country at large. “Today, we know through science that nutrition during the first 1000 days of life has a lifelong impact on an individual’s health and consequences are irreversible. We believe that breastfeeding is the ideal and the best way to feed an infant and should be continued for as long as possible. We also believe that we all have a role to play in terms of putting the right nutrition investment and commitment to ensure that our new generation gets the best possible nutrition and qnd tackle the menace of malnutrition both macro and micronutrient.”
“A very important macro ingredient known as protein is the building block and definitely matters the most. We know that breast milk protein is by far most important nutrient for infant and its low quantity and unique composition influences all aspect of growth and development in infant.”