• Breastfeeding lowers risk of breast cancer
By Doris Obinna
By now, it is safe to say that the majority of mothers are aware of the many amazing benefits of breastfeeding. Mothers and pediatricians across the world are quick to sing its many praises, and rightfully so, and offer their relentless support for women who choose and are able to breastfeed, as they should.
Breastfeeding is 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 important implications for the health of mothers.
Review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants.
To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for six months, World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) recommend that; 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. Breastfeeding on demand, that is as often as the child wants, day and night; and no use of bottles, teats or pacifiers.
However, there are some painful things breastfeeding mothers who have returned back to work after their maternity leave have to deal with, both physically and emotionally. Narrating her experience, Chikaodi Onyema said, “I thank God. For me I would say I am a lucky woman, I am a teacher with a private school. After I resumed from my maternity leave, what I did was to enroll my baby in crèche in my school.”
She said for this reason, it was easy to check on her every now and then in between classes to breastfeed her. Chikaodi said she would take her baby during free period to a secluded corner in the classroom and feed her.
“The truth though is, it would not have been easy, but for the magnanimity of our proprietress who appreciates motherhood and encourages staff who are still breastfeeding their infants to always make out time to go check and breastfeed them as long as they are registered as students of the school.”
Chikaodi is not the only working mother to comply with the campaign for adequate breastfeeding. Also caught in this dilemma is Uchechi Obodo, a first timer, who confessed that it is seriously exhausting coping with work.
“I work with a construction firm. The condition for resumption time and closing time that applies to every nursing mother after maternity leave is; you resume office by 9a.m and close by 3p.m. Though, the official hour is 8a.m to 5p.m. So when you are the sole source of nutrition to your child, you quickly become exhausted.
“It has not been easy you know! This is my first baby and has discovered that breastfeeding is a full time job. What is expected of a lactating mother is to be readily available to her baby 24 hours.”
“Babies don’t understand that their mum needs rest. They can disturb with their cries once they are hungry and they don’t care if that means waking up the entire house at mid night. I refrigerate and also make sure I get home as quickly as possible to make up for those hours I have been away.”
Also, Temitayo Babalola while narrating her experience said: “It has not been easy especially when I have to wake up in the middle of the night soaked, covered in a mixture of sweat and breast milk.”
Temitayo, who also admitted that breastfeeding is not supper fun said: “Though, I later realized and was made to understand that it is also a sign that my body is working hard to take care of my baby and myself. After all this, I would still have to wake up in the early hours and prepare the other kids for school while I prepare for work. Thank God for my husband who bathes and prepares the kids for school. Truth is, I missed the midnight sleep.
“I am managing to cope with exclusively breastfeeding my baby. I resume work at 8a.m and close before the official time to go home and take care of my baby. It is a tough job all the same, but there is nothing one can do about it. That is my cross and happy to carry it without complaining.”
Research shows that breastfeeding is good for both mother and baby in some truly remarkable ways. Breastfeeding can lower a woman’s risk of breast cancer; Breastfeeding can provide a baby with incredible antibodies; It can facilitate a wonderful bond between mom and baby.
According to Nutritionist and Dietician, Dr Chika Ndiokwelu in Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), 2013, exclusive breastfeeding rate in Nigeria is 17 percent. And factors responsible are: ignorance of many mothers of the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding, lack of crèche at the work place where mothers can keep their babies while at work. Work belief that someone can exclusively breastfeed when you are well nourished. Lack of training or periodic orientation of health workers on breastfeeding and lactation management and also, wrong notion by some women that their breast will sag.”
“Also, challenge of expressing breast milk and storing with fluctuations in electricity supply or non-availability. If a mother cannot get home early enough due to work schedule, the amount of breast milk expressed may be insufficient to sustain the child before she comes back home.
“Meanwhile, the breast milk is still intact if refrigerated at the correct temperature and length of time (at room temperature-seven hours; refrigerator-24 hours; deep freezer-seven days).”
Ndiokwelu continued: “Breastfed infants have higher intelligence quotient, bond better than non-breastfed, less allergy, less susceptibility to diabetes, heart diseases. Less susceptibility to respiratory tract infection and even when contracted are less in severity.
“Formula producing industries have their role when it is medically indicated. The most important thing is that they comply with the code of marketing of breast milk substitutes.”
Taking a look at breastfeeding as a key to sustainable development,’ Dr, Gabriel Omoniaye, said it has the objective to teach us to value our wellbeing from the start of life, respect each other and care for the world we share.
“It aims to make breastfeeding as a key to sustainable development, because of the links between breastfeeding and (a) nutrition, and food security; (b) health, development and survival; (c) achieving full educational potential and economic productivity; (d) economic production and (e) environmentally sustainable methods of feeding.
“Nigeria has about 97 per cent coverage rate for breastfeeding. About one third of all newborns are breastfed within one hour of delivery, and another one third are put to breast in the second hour post delivery. But the country, in 2015, had the lowest rate for exclusive breastfeeding in Africa, the figure being 17 percent. This is because, most Nigerian mothers also give water to their breastfed babies who are under 6 months of age, due to the belief that breast milk alone cannot provide enough water to meet the needs of the babies.”
Omoniaye said: “A recent report by Lancent, stated that adequate breastfeeding will prevent the deaths of 800,000 under six months children yearly and save 300 dollar billion in the United States that could have been spent on treating childhood diseases, such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and asthma in children that were not breastfed.”
While maternity laws, leaves and benefits nursing mothers differs from one country to the other. Omonaiye said, in the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) makes a provision of mandatory 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children. In South Africa, maternity leave is for 4 months. In Australia, there is a Parental leave of up to 18 weeks, during which either the mother or the father can take or share government paid leave.
“There are also new services that are largely free for new parents and babies. Germany has a lot of official monetary assistance to new parents, job protection and a compulsory 14 weeks of paid maternal leave, which could be extended by 4 weeks following premature delivery or multiple births.
“The Nigerian employment laws make provision for 12 weeks maternity leave (6 weeks before and 6 weeks after delivery) for pregnant women who have been employed for up to one year, irrespective of her marital status. This could be extended if there are compelling medical reasons.”
“In 2014, Lagos State government increased the maternity leave of her affected workers to six months for the first two children and 10 days paternity leave for interested male workers whose wives had just put to bed. I will support the 6 months paid maternity leave, as children will be strong enough to be left in a decent crèche.”
“On May 21, 1981, WHO, UNICEF and International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), came up with a breastfeeding code to checkmate the activities of the manufacturers of breast milk substitutes that mothers are not discouraged from breastfeeding and breast milk substitutes are used safely. The code also covers ethical considerations and regulations for the marketing of feeding bottles and teats. There have been a number of subsequent resolutions to further clarify or extend certain provisions of the code.”
“The code addresses the mothers, health workers, health care systems and the manufacturers of breast milk substitutes thus:
“For mothers: All forms of product advertising are prohibited; mothers should not be given free product sample; promotional devices such as discount and special displays at the retail levels are prohibited; company representatives may not initiate direct or indirect contact with mothers; the health risks to infants who are artificially fed or who are not exclusively breastfed should be highlighted through appropriate labeling and warnings.
“Health workers: Have the responsibility to encourage and protect breastfeeding; product samples can only be given at the institutional level for only professional evaluation and research and should not be passed to the mother; to avoid conflict of interest, manufacturers and distributors should not give material or financial inducements to health workers.
“Health care systems: All forms of promotion of any is forbidden in a health care facility; formula feeding should only be demonstrated to those mothers who need to use it and the information given should include the risks of formula feeding and hazards of improper use of products; donated equipment should not refer to brand names of products; prohibition of free or low cost supply of products to health care facilities.
And manufacturers/ labelling: Information on labels for infant formula must be in simple and easy to understand terms in an appropriate language; labels of infant formula must contain a statement on the superiority of breastfeeding and that the product should only be used after consultation with health professionals.
“Also, the use of pictures or text, which may idealize the use of infant formula, such as “humanized” or “materialized,” should not be used. Nutrition and health claims on labels for breast milk substitutes should not be permitted unless allowed by national legislation; labels must contain explicit warnings on labels to inform consumers about the risks of contamination of powdered formula with pathogenic (disease causing) microorganisms; labels must conform with WHO/FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) guidelines on safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered formula,” he stated.
Experts say breastfeeding is hard sometimes, it is totally worth it, but it is a huge commitment. It requires your baby to have access to your boobs every hour of everyday, whether you need a nap or not or you are at home or not or you are in the middle of work or not, and it can be difficult to keep up with that kind of constant demand. Your schedule revolves around feeding your child, and they are going to be hungry a lot. When your life revolves around caring for an all-consuming baby, your own needs become secondary. In order to take care of your baby, you have to take care of yourself, too. Be sure to make time to nurture your own needs.