Exclusive breastfeeding is essential for both infants and the lactating mother as it strengthens the bond between them.
Speaking to KNA Tuesday, Dr Mary Muthoni from the Githunguri Level 4 Hospital said breastfeeding a child is extremely important because it builds immunity that prevents infection and reduces risk of health complications later in life.
“You should therefore not deny your baby this milk however busy you are,” stated Dr Muthoni.
For a mother, the service helps to quickly contract the uterus and cease after-birth bleeding.
However, the medic said that nearly two out of five infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6-month period, which ends up being a disadvantage to the child.
Dr Muthoni further explained that breast milk is safe, clean and contains antibodies that helps protect the child against many common illnesses.
The milk also provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs to grow.
In addition, the medic observed that children who breastfed exclusively performed better on intelligence tests and were less likely to be obese and less prone to diabetes later in life.
On the part of the women, they also benefitted from reducing their chances of contracting breast and ovarian cancers which are now on the increase amongst females.
“Most mothers, if not all, wonder how they can naturally boost their milk supply for their babies. Every mother’s body is unique and may have different ways of stimulating milk production,” she said.
For them to achieve in this area, she advised that one must hydrate since the quantity may vary per individual but aim to take at least 8 glasses of water. Further, one should take a balance diet and keep off junk food.
She advised lactating mothers to ensure their meals contain basic components of a balanced diet namely carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and even minerals.
The doctor advised working mothers to use a breast pump to empty their breasts so as to stimulate more production of milk, since their babies are not feeding as often as is required when they are away from home. And after expressing, they can then go ahead and store the milk in clean sterilized milk bags.
At the same time, a breast-feeding mother should try as much as possible not to be stressed up but focus on the task ahead to produce food for the baby.
Dr Muthoni also said that while HIV can be passed from a mother to child through milk, it is advisable to give antiretroviral treatment to mother’s living with the condition as it significantly reduces the risk of transmission through breastfeeding and also improves her health.
She called on the government and stakeholders in the health sector to invest more in the area so as to avail skilled breastfeeding counselling to every woman through increased financing for Breastfeeding Programmes.
Also Health Care Workers need to be trained including Nurses and Midwives to deliver skilled breastfeeding counselling, which will help in improving health of the toddlers and boost their immunity.
Additionally, counselling should be made available as part of routine health and nutrition services that are easily accessible so as to empower every breastfeeding woman to give her baby the best possible initial foundation in life.
By Ann Kariuki