By Maria Famakinwa
Wife of the Ondo State Governor, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu has appealed to nursing mothers to embrace exclusive breastfeeding for their babies for the first six months of birth.
She gave the advice at this year’s World Breastfeeding Week Symposium titled “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together” held at the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan during the weekend.
While stressing the importance of breast milk in the growth of a child, the First Lady who was represented by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Women Affairs, Mrs Titilayo Adeyemi, described breast milk as a shield that protects babies against any form of diseases. Hence, the need for nursing mothers to key into it.
“Breastfeeding helps children to fight diseases, have strong immunity and give them normal growth.
“Exclusive breastfeeding means feeding your baby only breast milk for the first six months. Breast milk provides all the food and water that your baby needs during the first six months of life.
“We must spread the gospel of feeding the child within the first one hour of birth to get the needed nutrients to fight anti-bodies. We should stop forcing babies to eat instead, make the environment colourful so that the children can be attracted to the food. This will make them see feeding time as playing”, she said.
A Paediatrician Consultant /Lecturer at (UCH) Dr. (Mrs) Adejumoke Idowu Ayede, defined breastfeeding as the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from female human breasts.
She explained that experts recommended that children be breastfed within one hour of birth, exclusively breastfed for the first six months and then continuously breastfed while on complementary feeds until age two years.
“This will enable the child to fight infections, diseases and have normal cognitive value,” she stated.
The Paediatrician Consultant mentioned some of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to mothers which includes reducing the risk of ovarian cancer in mothers, aids involution of the uterus with reduction in post partrum bleeding, gives personal satisfaction and feeling of fulfilment of motherhood among others.
“Breastfeeding encourages normal growth and development in a child. Common eczema can be reduced through, exclusive breastfeeding, the more months children are breastfed, the less likely they suffer from delinquent behaviours, psychological problems among others”.
A Public Health Nutrition Educationist Dr. Emmanuel Oyewole, who explained how to transit from breastfeeding to complementary feeding observed that many babies begin to have different challenges when exposed to other nutrition after six months of exclusive breastfeeding. “This is a vulnerable period because the child is taking additional food with the breast milk”.
The Public Educatinist explained that from six months of age, a baby needs more than breast milk to grow, adding that the child needs to be given additional appropriate and adequate semi-solid food while still continuing to breast feed even as he stressed that early or late starting of other food may cause poor growth.
Dr Oyewole pointed out that appropriate complementary food should comprise of at least one food from each of the five groups of foods.
He advised nursing mothers not to force their babies to eat as many had lost their babies through this process. He also urged parents to avoid giving their babies pepperish food until the child is two years old as doing so discourages babies from eating and makes them cry abnormally anytime they want to eat.
To avoid force feeding of a child, the nutritionist said “Nursing mothers should stimulate the environment with colourful items like toys including making the baby’s utensils to be colourful, this makes feeding attractive to them.
“Let feeding time be playing time for them. If you are not ready to play with them for some minutes before feeding them, please do not initiate feeding at that time at all because it is wrong to feed children under duress.”
She appealed to nursing mothers to desist from using feeding bottles to feed their babies because it harbours a lot of germs.