World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every August to encourage breast feeding and improve the health of babies around the world. The theme this year is “Breastfeeding: Foundation for life” – a recognition of the importance of breastfeeding to a baby’s future.
In Nigeria, 86% of infants do not get exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months of their life. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure a baby’s health and establishing exclusive breastfeeding – feeding infants nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life – helps babies grow, prevents under-nutrition, promotes brain development, and reduces the risk that children will become overweight.
Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulates the production of breast-milk, including colostrums, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which are very rich in nutrients and antibodies.
Interesting facts on Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding should begin within one hour of birth, if every child was breastfed within one hour of birth and given only breast milk for their first 6 months of life and continued breastfeeding for up to 2years. In fact, improving breastfeeding practices could save the lives of 823,000 children under age five every year
- It contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide
- Breastfeeding burns calories: Producing breast milk burns 1, 000 calories a day which means you need to eat 500 more calories daily to keep up.What a workout!
- Breastfeeding mothers get 40-45 minutes more sleep per night on average during the first 3 months postpartum
- The taste of breast milk is never boring; it changes constantly depending on what you’ve eaten, the time of the day and the nutritional needs of the baby
- Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin which relaxes both baby and mum
- Breast milk can prevent tooth decay because of the antibodies that prevent dangerous bacteria growth; it helps children have healthier teeth
- Breastfeeding should not be decreased when starting babies on solid food; mashed solid foods should be introduced at 6 months old as a complement to continued breastfeeding
- The size of the breasts make absolutely no difference in the amount of milk one can produce
Breastfeeding is indeed the foundation for life and gives growing children an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential.
As we mark this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, let us also recommit to doing more to help every child, everywhere in Nigeria, experience the lifesaving benefits of optimal breastfeeding.