Protect, Promote and Support Breastfeeding
The topic of breastfeeding often occupied several fora at local, national, and international levels, whenever discussions around and about securing good health for future generation takes the center stage. It is not new, however, that dichotomy has been drawn between breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding. Whereas the former offers a generic conception, the latter provides for a more specific and precise description of how breastfeeding should be given.
For exclusive breastfeeding, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended six months of breastfeeding of infants without a mixture of any liquid, gaseous or solid substances whatsoever. This was recommended because it is scientifically proven to be a panacea for ‘optimal growth, and healthy child development.’ Moreover, the actual breastfeeding continues with nutritious supplements up to the age of two years and sometimes even beyond.
Photo credit: Unicef.org
It is known for breastfeeding to have deep roots in our people’s culture, tradition, and religion. Apart, there are also numerous benefits for the mother, the child, and of course society. For the mother, breastfeeding is a potent remedy to reduce pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding also shields mothers from the dangers of breast cancer. For the child, the mother’s breast serves as a source of food, and nutrients for bodybuilding and general child growth. Breast milk also offers a child antibody that fight-off diseases.
The above benefits for mother and child are inexhaustive. This article is not an attempt to exhaust all the benefits of breastfeeding but wishes to indicate and demonstrate that breastfeeding can serve as a tool that can be used to build a strong future for our communities, states, regions, nations, and the world at large, therefore it needs to be protected, promoted and supported. To mention but a few, the following are steps in protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding:
- Discuss important facts about breastfeeding with pregnant women and their families.
- Counsel women or mothers on the risk of using breastfeeding bottles, teats, and pacifiers.
- Do not provide breastfeeding newborns any fluid or drink, unless medically indicated.
- Support mothers in managing breastfeeding and common difficulties.
Facets that help in protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding
- There should be critical policies guaranteeing parental leave and the right to breastfeed in the workplace, hence it creates restrictions on the marketing of breast milk substitutes.
- Combined interventions and implementation of pro-breastfeeding should be adopted within health institutions and this invariably increases the importance of protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding.
- Raising awareness about breastfeeding and challenging prevailing myths that are confusing.
- A score card for breastfeeding should be implemented and made mandatory for all breastfeeding mothers to have an overview and track record of breastfeeding.
Just like we always clamor for a better future for our children, it is equally important to build a future generation that would be healthy. As such, breastfeeding needs to be taken to every doorstep of our urban and rural dwellers. The campaign for exclusive breastfeeding should be taken as a social responsibility of every citizen of the country.
We have to utilize our social media platforms, community-based groups, youth groups, and vanguards to bring reliable information about women on exclusive and continued breastfeeding. By the time we make our mothers, daughters, and sisters understand the huge benefit of this practice, we can rest assured that our national struggle to eliminate diseases would be significantly enhanced.
Moreover, there is the need to protect and support campaigners for breastfeeding by collaborating with them in identifying places of concern in our communities. As husbands, fathers, and brothers we can also begin this promotion with our wives, daughters, and sisters. This movement needs to be reinforced in our households and communities.
Women need to be encouraged and provided with the necessary support to have the ample time, energy, health, and zeal to breastfeed their babies and set a strong foundation for their healthy lives. Together, with such efforts, we can produce a generation that would be devoid of avoidable disease burdens.
Written by: Sadiq Abubakar Shehu