Boost breastfeeding for healthier nation
World Breastfeeding Week 2022 kicks off today with a series of activities geared towards supporting breastfeeding. As a child’s first meal in the world, breast milk is a crucial nutritional wholesome food that offers a newborn immunity against diseases, guaranteeing them healthy growth and development. This is why it is important to encourage mothers to ensure they breastfeed their children exclusively for at least six months.
Science has demonstrated that breastfeeding sets the foundation of a child’s emotional well-being resulting from the mother-child bonding that every breast feeding session offers. Though not as well publicised as a health benefit of breast feeding, emotional health is equally important, especially viewed against the background of a rise in mental health challenges.
Breast milk helps children become emotionally stable when they grow up and this cannot be overemphasised. Emotionally healthy people are in charge of their feelings, thoughts and behaviour and can handle life’s challenges better. Unfortunately, despite all the known benefits of breast milk, two out of three children are not breast-fed owing to a myriad of challenges, according to data from the World Health Organisation. This is why we support calls for increased awareness of its benefits. Breast feeding has several distinct aspects that impact it. These are healthcare systems, women and work, economy, science and education. All these are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. This then calls attention to its support across the board.
First, the healthcare systems ought to encourage breast-feeding and quash counteractive action that discourages mothers from breast-feeding. It first starts with offering healthcare professionals specialised lactation training because they interact with mothers during the pre- and peri-natal period. They are critical actors in reducing breast-feeding inequities.
Substitutes for breast milk, such as formula milk, should also not be marketed in ways that can interfere with breast-feeding because they do not offer the same benefits. Similarly, the government ought to replicate the Pumwani Maternity Hospital breast milk bank in other public hospitals to help curb the high neonatal deaths.
In the workplace, more employers should be incentivised to provide lactating mothers with hygienic lactation rooms well equipped with coolers to allow women to express and safely store breast milk. Finally, and most importantly, society should embrace and say yes to breast feeding, even in public.