Nigeria: Exclusive Breastfeeding Benefits Adulthood

BYLINE: Daily Trust (Abuja) February 15, 2010


When the Country Director of UNICEF (Nigeria), Dr Suomi Sakai, had the opportunity to comment on issues involving children's health yesterday, she educated many on the short and long-term benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.

Exclusive breastfeeding is vital to the children, she noted, not just because the breast milk is nutritious, strengthens the child, and protects him from diseases, it is also because it aids the child's robust growth and intellectual development. How well children develop into adulthood, she emphasized, depends much on the exclusive breast milk he or she had or did not have in at least the first six months of life. Excusive breastfeeding, by which is meant adequate feeding of the new baby with nothing other than the mother's breast milk for at least the first six months, is identified by medical science to be the healthiest way to feed the baby.

Breast milk is said to provide 'complete and perfect nourishment for infants, boosting their immune system and protecting them from potential killers such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.' It is said to also minimise an infant's exposure to potentially unsafe food or water,' and now saves estimated six million lives every year.'

Recent findings have it that the positive effect of breast feeding on later cognitive function continues to be the most consistent effect. It is established that breast feeding is likely to protect against some immune-related diseases later in life, such as type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases and perhaps cancer. Furthermore, breast is believed to be associated with a lower blood pressure and serum cholesterol. Most new studies show a protective effect against later obesity, although it is said to be small. A new hypothesis suggests that breast feeding programmes the insulin-like growth factor axis and results in higher growth velocity in later years. It is no special breastfeeding campaign season. All it took, instead, was an advocacy visit to the Nigeria office of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) yesterday by the management of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). The agency was at the UN House in Abuja to seek further collaboration with the UN health organ on areas of mutual interest, including the promotion of a culture of breastfeeding in Nigeria for maximum nutritive effects.

The NAFDAC Director General, Dr Paul Orhii who thanked UNICEF for the collaborative efforts that he said had helped the agency in its tasks in the past said it still needed UNICEF on many challenging health issues, including how to sensitize Nigerians on the desirability of exclusive breastfeeding. He said NAFDAC was still working on achieving a halt in 'flagrant and aggressive' promotion and marketing of breast milk substitutes, something which he said had become 'a major contributory factor to the decline in exclusive and optimal breastfeeding rates in Nigeria vis-a-vis high infant mortality and morbidity rates.'

Some 20 years ago, what was called the Innocenti Declaration was launched to save the lives of millions of babies. It sought a commitment from governments to support and encourage exclusive breastfeeding, which UNICEF believes gives children the best start in life. It is on record that since the launch in 1990 global breastfeeding rates have risen rather slowly, especially in less developed and largely uninformed countries.

UNICEF which was created by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1946 has been working in Nigeria since 1953 to support the government of Nigeria implement programmes and policies for the realisation of children's wellbeing and rights.Despite efforts by international agencies like UNICEF and national government agencies like NAFDAC, too many babies are still suffering malnutrition and even dying in many cases because they're not being exclusively breast fed. According to researches, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months - with continued breastfeeding for the first year - could save 1.3 million lives every year, well over 3,000 lives each day. It is further computed that if breastfeeding is continued alongside appropriate complementary feeding until at least age two, the world could be saving 5,500 additional lives daily.

The struggle to inculcate the culture of exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria has been fraught with restrictive realities, such as the difficulty of career mothers who have to spend an average of nine hours in office, almost invariably away from the newborn baby. A nursing mother can only spend three months on maternity leave by existing labour laws. Happy that he was able to secure the assurance of Dr Suomi Sakai that UNICEF would support efforts of NAFDAC to promote exclusive breastfeeding, Dr Paul Orhii announced that NAFDAC had put a crèche in place and would willing oblige request for help from other organisations which may wish to establish crèches of their own for use of nursing mothers.

Breast milk curbs stress later in life

BYLINE: CATHY O'LEARY MEDICAL EDITOR, January 14, 2010 Thursday

Babies who are breastfed for more than six months show fewer signs of stress and mental health problems more than a decade later when they are teenagers, WA researchers have found. In one of the longest studies of its kind, researchers from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research found that children breastfed longer as babies seemed to have fewer behavioural problems and possibly stronger mother-child attachment. The findings from the Raine study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, allowed for factors which could affect children's risk of developing mental health problems such as their parents' income, education and history of postnatal depression. The researchers tracked more than 2300 children, giving them a mental health assessment at the age of two, six, eight, 10 and 14 years. Almost half of the children were either never breastfed or breastfed for fewer than six months.
Dr Wendy Oddy said babies who were breastfed for more than six months appeared to be at lower risk of mental health problems such as depression and stress in later life.
Breastfeeding was likely to have long-term benefits on mental health because mother's milk was a rich source of fatty acids and other bioactive compounds such as the hormone leptin which was believed to reduce stress.
Health agencies recommend babies be breastfed exclusively until they are six months old but that breastfeeding continue beyond that while solids are being introduced.
"Unfortunately, many babies are still not being breastfed, despite a lot of literature about the benefits in terms of cognitive and educational development, and now this long-term study of mental health," Dr Oddy said. "We know behavioural problems can start early and carry on, and what we're showing is that diet can modulate these effects."
Twenty-seven-year-old Marmion mother Karley Brewer has been breastfeeding her son James Hribar since his home birth
12 days ago. With the support of her partner Karl, she said she believed it gave her baby the best chance of good health and she planned to continue breastfeeding for at least a year.
"It's been fantastic so far in terms of helping us to bond," the first-time mother said."And I know he's getting all the natural immunity and nutrients that he needs from the breast milk."


Gambia TBAs Trained On IYCF, Breastfeeding

BYLINE: The Daily Observer (Banjul), January 12, 2010 Tuesday

The Regional Health Management Team of Farafenni recently held a three-day training for 70 Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) on Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) and breast feeding, in Farafenni and Njaba kunda in the North Bank Region.
The aim of the programme was to empower TBA s with requisite knowledge and skills on proper feeding of young children and to promote exclusive breastfeeding. The training would also contribute to reduction of infant mortality and morbidity at grassroots level. Speaking at the occasion, Buba Manjang disclosed that a recent review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond. He commended the efforts of the TBAs for their valuable contribution toward the promotion and attainment of health care delivery at grassroots level. Â"When breast milk is no longer enough to meet the nutritional needs of the infant, complementary foods should be added to the diet of the child. The transition from exclusive breastfeeding to family foods, referred to as complementary feeding, typically covers the period from 6 to 18-24 months of age, and is a very vulnerable period. It is the time when malnutrition starts in many infants, contributing significantly to the high prevalence of malnutrition in children less than five years of age,Â" he said. According to him, feeding young infants requires active care and stimulation, where the caregiver is responsive to the child clues for hunger and also encourages the child to eat. He thanked the National Nutrition Agency for their continuous support in promoting the nutritional welfare of children and infant, and noted that the training will help to strengthen information in advocating exclusive breastfeeding, with the objective of ensuring that mothers establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, as recommended by WHO and UNICEF.
For his part, Amadou Jallow, NaNa field officer, underscored the importance the agency attaches to infant feeding and exclusive breastfeeding. Breastfeeding, he said, will contribute greatly to the maintenance of the health of the child at early stage and by extension contribute to the health and wellbeing of mothers. He added that breast milk is the natural first food for babies and it provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life and it continues to provide up to half or more of a childÂ's nutritional needs during the second half of the first year and up to one-third during the second year. Jallow further said that breast milk promotes sensory and cognitive development and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Â"Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia and helps for a quicker recovery during illness,Â" he stated.
In his contribution, Ebrima Hydara, senior community health Nurse and Midwife Tutor at the Regional Health Management Team of Farafenni said an extensive body of research has demonstrated that mothers and other caregivers require active support for establishing and sustaining appropriate breastfeeding practices. The training programme was designed to train a cadre of health workers including TBAs that can provide skilled support to breastfeeding mothers and help them overcome problems.