Exclusive breastfeeding develops child’s immunity – Experts

Breastfeeding Photo: The Guardian
A mother breastfeeding her baby used to illustrate the story
Photo: The Guardian

Nursing mothers have again been counselled to feed their babies only on breast milk for their first six months to develop the babies’ immune system.

Paediatric doctors and nurses at the National Hospital, Abuja gave the advice on Wednesday when they held an awareness campaign at the facility on exclusive breastfeeding.

During the campaign, which took the health workers round all the paediatric wards in the hospital, they enlightened nursing mothers and pregnant women on the importance of breastfeeding to the child.

The exercise was to commemorate the World Breastfeeding Week which was celebrated around the globe in the first week of August.

Led by Head, Department of Paediatrics at the hospital, Mariya Mukhtar-Yola, the professionals told nursing mothers to give their babies exclusive breast milk without water or any other food substance except prescribed medications for the first six months of the child’s life.

The mothers were also lectured on how to extract enough milk for storage for the baby so that the mothers can have enough time to rest as well.

Ms. Mukhtar-Yola said the main focus of their campaign was to get the mothers to know the importance of breast milk to their children, especially the first milk that comes out of the breast in the first seven days after delivery.

The yellowish substance is known as colostrum and contains the first immunisation a child needs to prevent infections.

“It is the best part of breast milk, as it contains all the vitamins, protein and a number of immunising factors for a new born,” she told the new mothers.

“Some cultures believe that it is not good for the child and express it away, but we are telling you that it is not true. That is almost all what the child needs for healthy growth,” Ms. Mukhtar-Yola said.

She stressed that breast milk is the best gift a parent can give a child from birth to optimal age, as it makes the baby grow strong and healthy.

Audu Lamidi, a paediatrician, said the awareness campaign was very important and would be a continuous process beyond a week, because Nigerians have underrated the value of breast milk to a child.

“Breast milk is a complete food for children. It is a living thing that has all the chemical components and antibodies a child needs for development. If expressed properly, breast milk can last eight hours at room temperature without getting spoilt, 24 hours in the fridge and 3 months in a freezer without contamination.

“The expression of milk can be done by working mothers and because of the nature of the milk, its preservative qualities make it cheaper and efficient to handle,” Mr. Lamidi stated.

He however warned that expressed milk should not be cooked, microwaved or boiled, as doing so makes it useless, killing all the antibodies and destroying the nutrients and protective properties of the milk.

One of the babies, who was brought for routine immunisation, was given the hospital’s award for the most healthy and flourishing baby of the month.

The baby’s mother, Adefolake Atolagbe, said her baby is four months and has been exclusively breastfed since his birth.

“It has not been easy, it is very stressful, but I made up my mind to do it. He is my third and I exclusively breastfed his elder ones too.

“I can tell you that I can see the importance of my perseverance on the other two, they are brilliant, smart and my daughter has been topping the class.

“I did not know I will get a gift today. You can see that he is looking well-nourished and flourishing well, bigger than his age and that is why I got a gift. I will advise other mothers to do likewise for their children, because the sacrifice is worth it,” she added.

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