New mothers should not wash off first milk from nipples before breastfeeding baby — Expert

Breastfeeding
Photo: The Guardian
Breastfeeding
Photo: The Guardian

New mothers should not remove or wash off the colostrum from their nipples before breastfeeding their babies, as it is the first and major vaccine a child can ever receive in life, an official of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF has advised.

Ada Ezeogu, a nutrition specialist, gave this advice on Thursday in Ibadan at a media dialogue on breastfeeding organised by the Federal Ministry of Information, in collaboration with UNICEF, as part of activities to mark the World Breastfeeding Week.

The event which was funded by the U.K. Department for International Development, was to train journalists on breastfeeding advocacy in Nigeria.

Mrs. Ezeogu lamented that most new mothers who are not aware of the importance, extracts the colostrum out and wash their nipples before breastfeeding their infants.

She explained that colostrum, as the first milk a pregnant woman’s breast produces, is very important to the health and growth of an infant.

“Most mothers are not aware of the importance of colostrum in the growth of their child. Colostrum is a major vaccine to an infant. It does not only protect the infant against allergy and infection, it serves as a purgative which helps to clear meconium.

“It also aids the growth of a child, it helps intestine to mature and it reduces severity of infection,” she said.

The nutrition specialist noted that one of the greatest barrier to achieving exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria is water.

She said that if water can be taken out of the way, exclusive breastfeeding will record a huge success in the country.

On the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, Mrs. Ezeogu said breastfed children have at least six times greater chances of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children; and the exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months.

She however said that most mothers do not practice exclusive breastfeeding because of lack of knowledge on the essential nutrients of breast milk.

“Most mothers give their infants water because they do not know that breast milk provides all the food and water that a baby needs during the first six months of life.

“Even during very hot weather, breast milk will satisfy a baby’s thirst,” she said.

Exclusive breastfeeding is a method of feeding a child with only breast milk for the first six months of life. No other liquids or solids are given, even water, with the exception of oral rehydration solution, syrups of vitamins, minerals and medicines.

The World Health Organisation and UNICEF recommend that breastfeeding be initiated within one hour of birth, that it should continue with no other foods or liquids for the first six months of life, and that it be continued with complementary feeding (breastfeeding with other age-appropriate foods) until at least 24 months of age.

Mrs. Ezeogu revealed that the current rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria is 25 per cent, which is very low compared to the World Health Assembly target of increasing the percentage of children under six months of age who are exclusively breastfed to at least 50 percent by 2025.

She, however, noted that if this must be achieved, more pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers must be enlightened on the importance of exclusively breastfeeding their infants.

According to the National Demographic Health Survey 2013, the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding in children below the age of six months is only 17 per cent, which means that at least 5.4 million children each year do not get the benefits of breastfeeding, contributing to 103,742 child deaths each year.

In his remarks at the event, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, restated that early breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death and urged journalists to join in the campaign to educate women on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding.

“Through your writings, you can influence communities and help them to know that breastfeeding helps in the cognitive development and higher IQs of children.

“As journalists, you can use the medium at your disposal to increase the knowledge among pregnant women and nursing mothers as this will likely improve their ability to guide against diarrhoea, pneumonia and probably child mortality,” he said.

The minister who was represented by the Assistant Director, Child Right Information Bureau, (CRIB), Olumide Osanyinpeju, said there is an urgent need to propagate breastfeeding to Nigerian families.

Earlier this week, health experts had warned that there is a huge economic cost to not exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months of their lives.

According to the experts, inadequate breastfeeding costs the Nigerian economy an estimated $ 21 billion per year, or 4. 1 percent of the nation’s gross national income.

The experts explained that women lose more financially, directly and indirectly by not exclusively breastfeeding their babies and saving them from malnutrition, diseases and death on the long run.

The World Breastfeeding Week is marked every August 1 to 7 to raise awareness on the benefits of breastfeeding to the child, among others.


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  • Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan

    Some experts indeed! Most of the so-called experts never experienced child bearing as those who experienced child birth among them did not breast-feed their children but fed their children baby-food-milk-powder.Most of them do not sleep in the same room with their babies.