Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The milk of human goodness for mother and child

The human milk brings out the goodness in all

There are two major reasons why breastfeeding is important for the mother as well as for the child. One is the nutritional aspect while the other is the psychological aspect. While the nutritional aspect is no doubt very important, that which some think can be substituted, the psychological bonding which develops between the child and the mother is unparalleled and does not have any alternative.

Research has proved that breastfed babies have a healthier start in life because human milk contains a balance that closely matches infant requirements for brain development, growth and a healthy immune system. Since an infant’s immune system is not fully developed until the age of two, the human milk provides a distinct advantage over infant formula. Besides there is an emotional tie between the mother and her baby which begins during pregnancy and increases at birth -this attachment enables parents to make sacrifices for their infant.

Breastfeeding releases a hormone in a woman’s body that causes her uterus to return to its normal size and shape more quickly. Other advantages of breastfeeding for the mother include a reduction of the risk of premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

From a budget standpoint, breastfeeding can save a family a lot of money. This is because it saves the mother from buying infant formula for her baby. With the baby’s immunity boosted from taking its mother’s milk, there is less risk of infection, thus there is a reduction in the frequency of visits to the doctor.

Despite the benefits, not every mother is able to breastfeed. A mother’s health may prevent her from breastfeeding her baby. For example if a woman tests positive to HIV or has the T- cell Leukemia virus type 1, it is advised that the baby should not be breastfed because of the risk of transmission to the child.

Other conditions such as exposure to environmental chemicals, hepatitis C, breast surgery and implants, and metabolic disorder such as galactosemia (a condition in which the infant cannot metabolize lactose) make some mother not breast feed their babies. The use of drugs such as ergotamine, cyclosporine, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety by mothers are not beneficial to babies so mothers should always ask their physicians before continuing or taking new medications while nursing. Tobacco and alcohol use are not recommended because they are present in breast milk and with long exposure would easily affect the nursing baby.

Nearly all women can breastfeed, but many especially first time mothers - do run into problems. It is important to ask for help. Effective feeding can take a number of weeks to establish properly. The most important thing to know about breastfeeding is how to position the baby during a feed. If the baby is in the right position then everything else will follow. Once established most women then find feeding easy and enjoyable.

Breastfeeding however, requires a substantial commitment from a mother. While some mothers feel tied down by the constant demands of a nursing newborn, breastfeeding is not the end of a woman’s independence. Mothers can use pumps to express their milk and leave it for someone else to feed the baby while they go about their usual work activity. Others feel embarrassed or concerned about breastfeeding especially in public places.

Benefits of breastfeeding immediately after birth include protection against infections for the baby, less risk of jaundice and low blood sugar, improved milk production, and less blood loss in the mother
Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby after birth is important because this has significant effects on infant health. Skin-to-skin means naked body to naked body with no clothes in between.

Other advantages of this first hour initiation is that baby learns feeding skills quicker, it prevents low blood sugar levels in the infant and the mild laxative effect of the colostrum helps in the passage of the meconium - the first blackish stool.

A mother’s body helps to keep the baby warm more effectively than blankets or an incubator. Babies who are kept skin-to-skin with their mothers are more likely to latch on and breastfeed well. Research has shown that the baby is less stressed, is calmer and has steadier breathing and heart rates when they have immediate contact with the mother

* By Adanma Ike

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