By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Urban women have been found to practice exclusive breastfeeding more than rural women.
The reason for this is because many urban women are more educated and have access to accurate information about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding than those in the rural areas.
This state of affairs indicates that breastfeeding awareness campaign has to be intensified in rural communities.
UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Mrs Ada Ezeogu, stated this recently while highlighting the short-term and long-term benefits of breastfeeding.
According to her, short-term health benefits of breastfeeding include that well breastfed babies suffer from fewer infectious diseases. They also have fewer gastrointestinal disorders, lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (IDS). Also, breastfeeding promotes emotional bonding between mother and baby.
The long-term benefits of adequate breastfeeding include improved growth and development, higher Intelligence Quotient (IQ), lower risk of obesity and more emotional security, Ezeogu said.
“Improved cardiovascular health through life, lower risk of childhood cancer (including Leukemia) and lower risk of diabetes” are the benefits well breastfed children enjoy, the UNICEF nutritionist pointed out.
A well breastfed baby has good immune system, and, therefore, responds better to vaccination” because ”human milk helps to mature immune system,” Ezeogu stressed.
She also emphasized that breastfeeding causes babies to be less allergic to eczema.
Ezeogu declared: “Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is less common in children who are breastfed,” adding: “Children who are breastfed are less likely to require tonsillectomies.”
Breastfeeding promotes the functioning of the digestive system, and therefore, makes babies to have less diarrhea and fewer gastrointestinal infections, she noted.
“Six months or more of exclusive breastfeeding reduces risk of food allergies,” Ezeogu elaborated.
“Less risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in adulthood,” she highlighted, are other breastfeeding benefits.
There is “less need for orthodontis in children breastfed more than a year,” and they also experience improved muscular development of face from sucking at the breast, the nutritionist asserted.
In addition, “Subtle changes in the taste of human milk prepares babies to accept a variety of solid foods,” according to the UNICEF nutritionist.
She explained how breast milk helps in the proper functioning of the respiratory, heart and circulatory systems. She said: “Breastfed babies have fewer and less severe upper respiratory infections, less wheezing, less pneumonia and less influenza.
“Breastfed children have lower cholesterol as adults. Heart rates are lower in breastfed infants.”
The nutrition specialist advised mothers that starting from six months, babies need other foods in addition to breast milk.
“When giving complementary foods, think: Frequency, amount, thickness, variety, active/responsive feeding and hygiene,” Ezeogu elaborated, and therefore stressed that breast milk continues to be the most important part of the baby’s diet.
“Therefore it is recommended to continue breastfeeding with complementary foods for up to two years and beyond,” she affirmed.