Breastfeeding is the essential element in primary health care. It is proper nutrition during infancy and early childhood. It is also beneficial to ensure the growth, health, and development of children to their full life.
It has been realized worldwide that breastfeeding is important to both the mother and child and also considered as the best source of nutrition for infants. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six (6) months without water or any other food.
Globally inadequate nutrition is an underlying cause of the deaths of more than 2-6 million children and over One hundred thousand mothers (100,000) mothers every year. Many health groups such as WHO, UNICEF support six (6) months of exclusive breastfeeding and continued partial breastfeeding for an extended period.
Breastfeeding can simply be defined as the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Breastfeeding baby effectively reduces the rate of mobility, malnutrition, and mortality in infants.
Every mother can breastfeed when they have accurate information, support from family, health care system and society at large.
The first breast milk that comes from the breasts called colostrum which is yellowish in colour, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy and it is recommended by WHO (World Health Organization) as the perfect food for the newborn. W.H.O also recommends the initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. The baby is placed on the mother and feeding commences as soon as the baby shows interest.
The breastfeeding mothers usually could be explained according to its type which is discussed as follows;
- Exclusive Breastfeeding: Exclusive breastfeeding is the effective method that every lactating mother should practice. In this method is where infants consume human milk with no supplementation of any food or water except for vitamins, minerals and medication. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infants and mortality and infectious disease. It also reduces risk of HIV transmission from mother to child compared to mix feeding.
- Expressed Milk Breast Feeding: This is another method of breastfeeding baby. Here, the mother expresses her milk for storage and later used. Expression of breast milk could be done with massage or a breast pump. It is stored in a freezer. Storage bag containers or bottles are made specifically for breast milk.
- Mixed Breastfeeding: This type of breastfeeding practice is the use of infant formula and breast milk side by side and it depends on the child’s age.
- Wet breastfeeding: This was common throughout history. It remains popular among some developing nations including Africa. Here, more than one woman breastfeed a child which exposes the child to high risk for HIV infection in infants.
There are numerous challenges that lactating mothers encounter during breastfeeding which includes:
- Sore nipple mostly caused by frequent suckling of the breast and improper positioning by the baby and the mother respectively. Inadequate production of breast milk from lactating mothers, societal barriers such as employment and shorter duration of maternity leave, which leaves lactating mothers no option than to practice mixed breastfeeding. Inadequate breastfeeding knowledge, breast engagement, lack of family and society support, lack of guidance and encouragement from health care providers and these are factors that intend to promote the use of breast milk substitute such as infant formula.
The above challenges can be minimized by; lactating mothers alternate their breast during breastfeeding. Government agencies, NGO’s and private installations should extend maternity leave to six (6) months so that mothers can practice exclusive breastfeeding, Health professionals should educate lactating mothers on the importance of breastfeeding to mother and child, hygienic practices of the breast, position and also reward mothers who practice exclusive breastfeeding and also report any unusual symptoms of diseases of the breast.
Lactating mothers should gradually introduce child or infants to infants formula when a child is six (6) months and also encourage suckling at the same time.
There are a lot of positions that are adopted by lactating mothers during breastfeeding such as:
- Cradle hold: This type of position is where the baby’s headrest in the bend of the mother’s elbow of the arm side when breastfeeding, with the hand on that side supporting the breast of the baby. The mother cups her breast with the other hand, placing her thumb above her nipple and areola at the spot where the baby’s nose will not touch her breast.
- Crossover hold position: Here the mother holds the baby’s head with the opposite hand to the breast she will be breastfeeding from. If nursing from the first breast, hold the head with the left hand, then rest the wrist between her baby’s shoulder blades and thumbs one ear and another finger behind the other ear.
- Sidelying position: This position is a good choice when breastfeeding in the middle of the night. Both the mother and baby should lie on their side.
- Laid-back Position: This position is also called biological nursing. This one can be particularly helpful for mothers who have smaller breast. Lean back on a bed or couch, well supported by pillow which enhances easy breastfeeding.
- Football hold position: With this type of position, it is very useful for premature babies or twins and the lactating mother with large breast. The baby is positioned at her mother’s side, facing her with the baby’s legs, are tucked under her arm on the same side on the breast.
However, after the baby has been positioned well, it is important that baby is lactated properly. These are some tips for lactation:
- Gently tickle the baby’s lip with the nipple. This is the first to adopt when lactating the baby to open the mouth very wide.
- Bring the baby toward the breast. Not moving the breast towards the mouth or stuff the nipple into an unwilling mouth instead let the baby take the initiative.
- Be sure thatthe baby’s mouth covers both the nipple and the areola. Suckling just the nipple would compress the milk glands and cause soreness and cracking.
- Checkingif the baby is gettingfed. This can be done by checking the baby’s cheeks, seeing from strong action of suckling, steady rhythmic motion means the baby is successfully suckling and swallowing.
After all these procedures for lactating, the mother must have unlatched in different form by pulling the breast out of the baby’s mouth abruptly can cause injury to the nipple, when having latching problems and need to relatch or the baby has finished feeding but still holding onto the breast, break the suction first by pressing the rest nearer the mouth or by inserting a clean finger to the cover of the baby’s mouth.
Breastfeeding offers benefits to both the mother and baby in different ways. For the baby, it gives protection from infection by getting a healthy dose of antibodies from the mother and also helps to boost the immunity against bugs including cold and ear infection etc. It also serves as a naturally safe meal for the always sterile without boiling. Italsobooststhebrain of the baby by increasing the IQ as compared with babies who feeds on formula. It also serves as better poops for the baby by easy digestion which prevents constipation. Breastfeeding has no allergies to the baby.
Benefits of Breastfeeding to the mother
Most lactating mother’sbenefits from breast feeding including;
- Post-partum recovery: The baby sucks on the breast, which triggers the release of oxytocin hormones that spurs the straining of the uterus reducing the flow of lochia which curb blood loss.
- It also boosts health status of the mother. Research has shown that breastfeeding may slightly reduce the risk of uterine ovarian and premenopausal breast cancer and also minimize the risk of developing Rheumatoidarthritis and osteoporosis.
- Lastly, it also builds-in-bonding. Breastfeeding create a special bond between the mother and baby which also have a physical and emotional connection they get from birth.
Breastfeeding has been described as the best natural perfect babies’ food in which human breast milk contains at least 100 ingredients that cannot be found in any other infant formular. Hence, lactating mothers should practice proper breastfeeding techniques to ensure good health, development of children and alsoreduce infant’s mortality and mobility.
Breastmilk is readily available to the baby and very cheap. It also involves the participation and cooperation of the mother just as the goals of the Primary Health Care seeks to provide. As it prevents infection, then it plays the role of the preventive arena of the PHC.
JOHN KENNEDY OFORI-BEDIAKO (MR)