Breastfeeding What Every Family And Community Has A Right To Know (UNICEF, 2002)

Breastfeeding What Every Family And Community Has A Right To Know (UNICEF, 2002)
  • Breast milk alone is the only food and drink an infant needs for the first six months. No other food or drink, not even water, is usually needed during this period.
  • There is a risk that a woman infected with HIV can pass the disease on to her infant through breastfeeding. Women who are infected or suspect that they may be infected should consult a trained health worker for testing, counseling and advice on how to reduce the risk of infecting the child.
  • Newborn babies should be kept close to their mothers and begin breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  • Frequent breastfeeding causes more milk to be produced. Almost every mother can breastfeed successfully.
    Breastfeeding helps protect babies and young children against dangerous illnesses. It also creates a special bond between mother and child.
  • Bottle-feeding can lead to illness and death. If a woman cannot breastfeed her infant, the baby should be fed breast milk or a breast milk substitute from an ordinary clean cup.
  • From the age of six months, babies need a variety of additional foods, but breastfeeding should continue through the child’s second year and beyond.
  • A woman employed away from her home can continue to breastfeed her child if she breastfeeds as often as possible when she is with the infant.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding can give a woman more than 98 percent protection against pregnancy for six months after giving birth – but only if her menstrual periods have not resumed, if her baby breastfeeds frequently day and night, and if the baby is not given any other food or drinks, or a pacifier or dummy.

Risks of introducing other foods to breastfed babies before 6 months

  • Foods or infant formula may be difficult for baby to eat, digest and excrete
  • Colic (unexplained fussing and crying) may be exaggerated and prolonged.
  • Constipation (hard, infrequent, painful stools) often becomes a problem and may persist long after infancy.
  • Babies will consume less breastmilk which means that:
    • overall nutrient intake is lowered because the foods given are usually less nutritious than breastmilk, and may also reduce the bioavailability of nutrients in breastmilk (such as Iron and Zinc)
    • babies receive less of the protective factors unique to mothers milk.
    • breastmilk production will be reduced.
  • The risk of developing allergies, eczema.,wheeze, asthma and latent heart disease increases.
  • The risk and severity of diarrhoea and other infections increases because of potentially greater exposure to germs and decreased protection from breastmilk
  • Early formula or mixed feeding may exaggerate Iron deficiency of infancy.
  • Giving solids or other milks early interferes with the contraceptive effect of breastfeeding
  • For HIV-positive mothers, the risk of transmission of HIV through breastmilk increases when the baby also receives other foods and liquids, known as “mixed feeding”. This has implications especially for mothers who are unaware of their HIV status.

Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, should be a matter of course, unless medically contra-indicated.