A nutritionist, Mrs Josephine Chukwunweike, has urged nursing mothers not to joke with exclusive breastfeeding, saying it builds the child’s immunity against infections and diseases.
Chukwunweike, in an interview with our correspondent, said breast milk alone would be sufficient for the child in the first six months.
She said, “Exclusive breastfeeding builds the child’s immunity against diseases and infection. The first milk a woman produces at birth in the first few days, yellowish in colour, called colostrum is rich in antibodies that build the child’s immunity.
“It helps proper brain development of the child; it encourages bonding between mother and child; it helps a woman’s uterus contract easily and quickly after birth. Breast milk is cheap and readily available.
“Breast milk is available at optimal temperature and is the more hygienic option. It reduces the susceptibility of women to ovarian and cervical cancer.”
She advised nursing mothers not to give their newborn herbal drinks, saying it could affect the baby’s digestive system.
“Herbal drinks are unnecessary for infants. As a matter of fact, they are harmful because the infant’s digestive system is not yet mature enough to break down these drinks. The only thing a child should be given before six months apart from breast milk is any medication that has been recommended by a medical doctor.
“Some people believe that breastfed babies between zero and six months should be given water to aid digestion or quench thirst if indeed breast milk is their food. Unfortunately, this is wrong as breast milk is 96 per cent water, so infants who are well breastfed are actually properly hydrated.
“Some people say breast milk alone for six months may be boring for a child because variety is not introduced. Well, the truth is, a woman’s breast milk changes in nutritional composition as the infant grows older to suit their nutritional needs,” Chukwunweike added.
The nutritionist advised government and private companies to support breastfeeding mothers by extending the maternal leave for mothers to six months.
“Lagos and Kaduna State Governments have already implemented this and it is highly commendable. I implore other states to follow this good example.
“Also, I suggest that they look at building daycare centres very close to office buildings or in the same compound possibly so that mothers are closer to their little ones.
“The government should also look into giving paternity leave for about one month; this will be very helpful also for the fathers as they play a big role in supporting their wives and newborns in achieving exclusive breastfeeding,” the expert said.