WHY EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING?
Last month we learned the amazing benefits of breastfeeding – both for your baby and for you mum! Research shows conclusively that BREAST IS BEST! Not only is it the complete nutritious food for your baby, it also protects him or her from disease by building up the immune system. It really is MUM’S MAGIC! Research shows that breastfeeding increases baby’s intelligence and reduces the risks of chronic health problems later in life.
And it’s best for mum too! Nature prepares mum’s body to produce milk for her baby. Mothers from every culture and from all over the world have breastfed their babies since the start of time. As soon as baby is born he should be placed skin to skin on mum’s body and breastfeeding should start straight away. This gets mum’s milk flowing and sooths and comforts her baby. AND it’s a highly emotional time of bonding and connecting with the precious miracle of new life you’ve brought into the world. This special relationship mum has with her baby is really good for her mental and emotional health as well as baby’s.
On top of that, breastfeeding has physical benefits for mum. It reduces bleeding and helps the womb return to normal; it helps mum to return to her normal weight; and if mum breastfeeds exclusively for 6 months and then continues to breastfeed until her child is 1 or 2, it reduces the risk of another pregnancy, so it helps with family planning. AND, guess what – breastfeeding can lower a woman’s chances of developing diabetes as well as breast cancer and cancers of the womb and ovaries. On the financial side – because breastfeeding is free, it reduces stress around where to find the money to feed baby. Commercial milk formula can cost over R100 every 10 days and there’s no free formula from clinics and state health facilities.
Once again, research from all over the world shows that EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING is best for babies for the first 6 months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding means ONLY BREASTMILK for 6 months – no water; no glucose water; no tea; no porridge or fruit or vegetables; no medication unless prescribed by a health professional; no traditional, herbal or home remedies; no gripe water – nothing except breastmilk! Baby’s digestive systems are immature and giving them anything other than breastmilk could damage the lining of baby’s stomach. HIV positive mums should exclusively breastfeed as well, but they must ensure they are taking their ARVs exactly as prescribed by health workers. And ALL mums should be using condoms to protect themselves from HIV and know their HIV status by testing regularly.
Mums living in hot areas may worry that baby is thirsty and needs water. As long as you are breastfeeding often and regularly during the day – they don’t. Breastmilk provides all the liquid baby needs. You will know baby is getting enough milk and fluids if they have at least 5 to 6 wet nappies a day. If you are worried or experiencing any challenges with breastfeeding, do ask your clinic or health staff for advice and support. All Department of Health staff and facilities will help new mothers to get started and support breastfeeding because this is strongly the South African Department of Health’s policy. And do sign up for MomConnect, the Department of Health’s free messaging service. Enquire at your clinic. It’s best to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding and the support available before you give birth, so that you know who to ask if you need help.
So dads, families and communities – support ALL mums to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of baby’s life!
LOVE, PLAY TALK
Learn more about what you can do to change your child’s future by listening weekly to LOVE, PLAY TALK, the radio programme on Nkomazi FM aired EVERY Thursday from 11 to 11.30am and brought to you by Ilifa Labantwana and RCL FOODS. Each week Nkomazi FM hosts a guest speaker to deal with a different topic to support you, the parent of a young child, give your child the best start in life. The LOVE, PLAY, TALK radio programme is part of the RCL FOODS sponsored LEAVE NO YOUNG CHILD BEHIND early childhood development initiative in Nkomazi Wards 16 and 19 that aims to ensure every young child in these wards has access to improved quality of essential services so that they get the very best start in life. And you, the parent, have a critically important role to play!
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST