P HNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Around the world, many women breastfeed their babies because it is the best way for new borns to have a healthy start. Yet, there is a growing trend to replace breast milk with formula. Why have we forgotten how important breastfeeding is?
What has changed?
Convenience has become the priority and somehow we have forgotten the unique benefits of breast milk. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding – along with appropriate complementary foods – for up to two years of age or beyond.
Exclusive breastfeeding means no solid food, formula, water or tea for at least six months. Mothers react to their baby’s needs by giving them breast milk on demand. Breast milk contains everything that babies need: protein, fat, water, enzymes, lactose, vitamins and minerals in the quantities required for optimal growth and development.
How beneficial is breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding benefits mother and baby because it:
• Is natural and does not contain any chemicals.
• Protects babies from a number of illnesses, reducing the future risk of middle-ear inflammation, respiratory diseases, allergies, obesity, diabetes and cancer.
• Helps reduce baby’s risk of gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea.
• Boosts a child’s intelligence.
• Reduces a mother’s stress level and her risk of postpartum depression, bleeding and anemia.
• Deepens the bond between mother and baby as intimate contact helps develop a sense of warmth, love and affection.
Lowers the mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
• Helps mothers regain their pre-pregnancy figure.
• Costs nothing and is environment-friendly.
• Provides nutritious breast milk at an ideal temperature that is always available.
Breast milk also contains antibodies which act as a natural vaccine, strengthening the immune system to protect babies from infections.
Steps to successful breastfeeding
Practice skin-to-skin contact, placing your naked baby on your naked chest.
• Start breastfeeding within one hour after birth.
• Don’t use any bottles or soothers.
• Make sure that you use the correct breastfeeding position.
• Feed on baby’s demand. This depends on how often the baby needs your milk.
• Trust yourself and take care of yourself.
• Try to sleep well, drink lots of water and eat healthy.
Breast milk also has a natural antiseptic effect and can be used to help heal skin allergies like eczema or nappy rash. It can also moisturize the skin much like body lotion, and can relieve itching and reduce swelling due to, for instance, mosquito bites.
Recipe: Expel the milk and apply directly on the skin rash using gauze or in the baby’s bath breast milk. Prepare two bowls, one containing water mixed with your breast milk, and the other containing just water. Dip the baby into the first bowl then rinse her or him using water from the second bowl.
This is the best start in life that you can offer your baby. Remember that your child’s future is in your hands. Every drop of your natural milk is valuable. Don’t pour it away.
Celina Szwinta is the midwife manager at Khema Clinic. She may be contacted on 012-931-468.