Why is exclusive breastfeeding important?

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Exclusive breastfeeding has been discovered to be beneficial for both the mother and the baby. Children who are exclusively breastfed usually does not come down with any form of illness during this period and tends to bond well with their mothers.

What is exclusive breastfeeding?

Any child between the ages of 0-6months should be fed with only breast milk. This is called exclusive breastfeeding. This child can be allowed to suck directly or the milk is expressed in a cup. The child can then be given this expressed breast milk with a spoon.

 A child on exclusive breastfeeding must suck or be fed as many times as possible during the day and night. This child should be allowed to empty 1 breast before putting her on the other. This is because the fore part of breast milk is water, the nutrient is embedded in the hind part. A child who sucked only the fore part and changed to the other breast has only sucked the water content and if care is not taken can develop malnutrition.

Benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to the child

  • Breast milk contains antibodies (soldiers of the body) which helps the newborn fight infections. Colostrum – the initial yellowish milk that comes out of the breast helps boost the immunity of the newborn.
  • Breast milk contains all the nutrients needed by a newborn for growth and development. Breast milk tends to adjust its contents as the child increases in age to the basic needs at that time.
  • Exclusively breastfed children are at reduced risk of developing allergies and diarrhea diseases.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding helps a child bond well with the mother.
  • Children that are exclusively breastfed are usually well nourished. This is because breast milk is cheap and affordable. No technique is required for it to be prepared. The child can therefore be fed easily anytime there is demand for it without worrying about the money needed in purchasing it or the stress to pass through in preparing it.
  • Breast milk is easier to digest especially in premature babies as the breastmilk produced when a baby is born prematurely is suited for that age.

Benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to the mother

  • It reduces the mother’s risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer and heart diseases.
  • It helps in preventing pregnancy in the first 6months after birth.
  • It can help in shedding the excess weight gained during pregnancy.
  • It also helps in reducing the risk of postpartum depression.
  • It helps the womb contract properly thereby returning to pre-pregnancy size on time.

When should a child be put to breast?

Health workers and care givers must ensure a child is put to breast within 1hour after delivery. The nipple should be cleaned and the child allowed to suck the first yellowish part- colostrum. This should never be expressed away as it contain important nutrients and immune boosters needed for the child at that time.

What other things can a child take while being exclusively breastfed?

A child on exclusive breastfeeding can take the following as recommended by your physician:

  • Oral rehydration solutions.
  • Medications in drop or syrup form.

What exclusive breastfeeding is not?

Giving water with breast milk is not exclusive breastfeeding. A child who has hiccups should be given breast milk NOT water. The fore part of breast milk is majorly water. 

Giving baby milk with breast milk is not exclusive breastfeeding.

Let’s review some common questions on exclusive breastfeeding.

  • ‘I am a working mother, how will it be possible to go for exclusive breastfeeding’

A working mother can express her breast milk. This can be done either manually or by using a breast pump.

  • ‘I have twins, breast milk will not be enough for the 2 babies’

Breast milk is produced according to demand. The more the breast is being sucked, the more the milk tbat is being produced.

  • ‘Exclusive breastfeeding will make my breast sag’

Fibrous tissues present in the breast hold it in place and prevent it from sagging. Sagging of breast does not have any relationship with breastfeeding, rather as one grows older the fibrous tissues become weak. This can make the breast sag.

  • ‘Children who are exclusively breastfed are not usually as big as those on formula feed’

You do not need to make your child obese. Formula feeding can lead to obesity in a child thereby putting him at risk of developing diabetes later in life. All you need is a well-nourished child with the appropriate weight for age.

  • ‘I had caesarean section, can I breastfeed exclusively?’

Caesarean section does not stop you from practicing exclusive breastfeeding. You can initiate exclusive breastfeeding immediately you recover from anaesthesia.

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Dr Kay
About Dr Kay 58 Articles
As a physician, I love to give answers to several questions bothering people, educating them on how to be healthy, breaking down what their present condition is all about and counselling them on how to manage their condition.

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