Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Breastfeeding a winning start

Published:Wednesday | September 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Marsha N. Woolery
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The oldest method of providing nourishment is by breastfeeding. Cows, goats, dogs and cats do it, so why do humans have such a hard time feeding their young ones with the most natural form of food for a newborn?

As a nutrition professional, I have heard so many excuses why women don't want to and why men and family members don't support the act of breastfeeding. How can something that is so natural and awesome evoke such negative emotions and controversy in both males and females, young and old?

With our unstable economy where people are faced with many health issues that are preventable, breastfeeding should be encouraged. Breastfeeding benefits the entire family and the country's economy.

As we commemorate National Breastfeeding Week during September 20-26, under the theme 'Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal For Life', here are some reasons breastfeeding should be promoted, encouraged, protected and supported:

Breastfed babies are usually healthier and get sick less often; and if they do get sick, it is for shorter periods of time and the illness is not as severe. This is because breast milk and ONLY breast milk has substances that boost the immune system.

Babies who were breastfed grow up to be healthy, strong children and adults. They have reduced risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, allergies, and high blood pressure and certain types of cancer.

Breastfed children have fewer absent days from school because of illness and visit the doctor's office or clinic less often. The brain is more developed and, therefore, these children usually perform better academically.

Breastfed children are less likely to have poorly formed teeth and jaws.

Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer.

More money will be available to purchase other items needed by the family and save for future educational needs. This is so because formula, bottles, nipples, bottle brush, pacifiers, bottle warmers will not be needed to feed infant.

Breastfeeding is convenient, inexpensive and safe. All members of the family can help to feed infant from cup when mother expresses and stores her breast milk.

Fewer of the country's resources will be spent to buy foreign exchange to purchase formula, bottles and other items used in the alternative method to breastfeeding.

As a mother who has breastfed two children, I am aware of the challenges associated with breastfeeding. For a woman to successfully breastfeed, she needs support, especially if she is young with limited resources. For me as a young mother, what stimulated me to breastfeed was the fact that I would lose the weight gained during pregnancy.

Here are some reasons mothers give for not breastfeeding:

Not having enough milk to feed newborn. For the first two to three weeks after delivery, the amount of milk produced is small, but the amount increases as baby grows and the nutritional needs increase.

Breast dropping/sagging. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, a woman's breast naturally gets bigger and then shrinks after. Depending on genetics, the breasts may lose its elasticity or become loose, but this also happens after a woman successfully loses weight.

Boy baby needing more nourishment than what the breast milk provides. The breast milk produced has all the nutrients needed by the baby delivered by that mother in the correct amounts, whether it's a boy or girl.

Partner claiming the breast to be his, a few weeks after delivery, hence early weaning of infant.

Inadequate money to feed self to breastfeed.

Time-consuming.

Size of breast. Breast too small to produce enough milk. All breasts, regardless of size and shape, can produce sufficient breast milk to feed infants.

Infants are to be fed on demand and not on a schedule. Alternative breasts should be offered and emptied at each feed. The quality of the milk produced is based on the needs of the infant.

There is no special diet for women who breastfeed. They just need to eat a variety of foods from the six Caribbean food groups in moderation and drink enough water before, during and after breastfeeding to make sufficient milk and prevent dehydration.

Mothers who breastfeed need physical support with chores while they nurture infants. Breasts have lots of fat and after delivery and breastfeeding, the fat cell size decreases, which results in smaller breasts, therefore, mothers need to invest in proper brassieres that give appropriate support.

Let us as a family support breastfeeding for a bright future.

Marsha N. Woolery, RD, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Fairview Medical and Dental Center, Montego Bay and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com