As the world observes Breastfeeding Week, women are encouraged to choose this as the best option for providing their newborns with nutrition.
Breastfeeding Week is commemorated annually from 1 to 7 August. This year’s theme is ‘Let’s make breastfeeding and work, work!’
Nutrition and Food Security Alliance of Namibia (Nafsan) head of projects Maria Kandjungu said breastfeeding is very important because it provides the core nutrients required for the baby, particularly within the first six months.
Kandjungu was speaking during an interview with Desert Radio on Monday.
She said breast milk is a key food as it has the right temperature, nutrients, and everything the child requires.
“That is why within this week, we are focused on emphasising the importance of breastfeeding. We understand that there may be issues that lead to mothers to not breastfeed babies and opt for formula milk, but it is very important to understand the importance of breastfeeding exclusively,” she said.
Breastfeeding Week aims to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding, both for the health and welfare of babies, as well as part of a wider push for maternal health focusing on good nutrition, poverty reduction and food security.
The event is organised every year by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, a global network that aims to protect, promote and support breastfeeding around the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund.
BREAST MILK NUTRIENTS
Food and nutrient expert Carmen Letlhagoje said exclusively breastfeeding means for the first six months of a baby’s life, they should only be breastfed.
“For the first six months, there should not be formula, no water, no soft porridge, nothing, just breast milk,” she said.
“Breast milk not only provides all the nutrients, it also provides all the antibodies from the mother that goes to the baby through the breast milk,” she said.
Letlhagoje said breastfeeding protects babies from diseases like diabetes, obesity, cancer and more.
She highlighted that breastfeeding is probably the best thing mothers can do for their babies.
She urged mothers to avoid drinking alcohol and smoking while breastfeeding, as this could negatively affect the baby.
“If you’re going to drink alcohol as a breastfeeding mother, your baby is also going to drink alcohol, basically.
“There is a difference, like physical changes of a baby that was well breastfed, and a baby that was introduced to food too early, as their stomachs are not matured to digest food properly,” she said.
She called on mothers to embrace breastfeeding as the right start to their babies’ lives.
BUILDING HEALTHIER POPULATIONS
According to the WHO website, breastfeeding provides vital health and nutritional benefits for children, with positive lifelong impacts, building healthier populations and workforces for the future.
“Women shouldn’t have to choose between breastfeeding their children and their jobs. Breastfeeding support is possible regardless of workplace, sector, or contract type,” the website noted.
The WHO also emphasised that effective maternity protections improve children’s and women’s health and increase breastfeeding.
“And yet, at present, more than half a billion working women lack access to vital maternity provisions; many more find themselves unsupported when they go back to work.
“All women, everywhere, no matter their work, should have at least 18 weeks, preferably more than six months, paid maternity leave, paid time off for breastfeeding or expressing milk upon returning to work and flexible return to work options.
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