General Health

Why Breastfeeding is Important

World Breastfeeding Week 1st-6th August 2017 focused on  working together for the common good, with the theme “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together.” All over the world, there had been a serious emphasis on encouraging mothers to take breastfeeding serious, as a sure way of raising a healthy generation. In this series, we would consider why breastfeeding is that important.
Breastfeeding, also known as nursing is the act of feeding a baby with milk from the breast. Unless contraindicated, this milk is the absolute best for babies from birth to six months. It is so good that the World Health Organization advocates you give just breast milk and nothing else to babies within that age group {not even water}and it should be initiated within one hour after birth. Breast milk contains all the necessary nutrients and antibodies a baby needs for that first stage of life in a form more easily digestible, much more accessible and cheaper than infant formula.

Benefits for the baby:

Breastfeeding makes a smiling mother and baby

  • It contains antibodies that help babies fight bacteria and viruses
  • It lowers the risk of developing asthma and allergic reactions
  • Breastfed babies have fewer infections and bouts of diarrhoea
  • Breastfeeding has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood according to some studies.
  • Breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing diabetes and obesity later in life.

But breastfeeding doesn’t benefit just the baby, it is of benefit to the breastfeeding mother as well e.g.

  • It helps you lose pregnancy weight faster so snapping back is easier
  • It reduces your risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer later in life
  • It is cheaper, comes at no extra cost
  • It causes the release of oxytocin to help the return of the uterus to pre-pregnancy state.
  • And more, it gives you bonding time with your new infant.


  1. Some mothers worry they might not be making enough milk for their baby’s needs but the body usually will respond by making more milk as the baby’s needs increase. If you start adding formula or juice to your baby’s diet, your breasts might make less milk. Please never give your infant under 6mths plain water, the breast milk contains enough water for their needs and any extra could lead to water intoxication.
  2. Some mothers develop sore nipples from breastfeeding and this usually occurs when the baby doesn’t latch on well to the nipple. To help with this, ensure baby is well positioned so as to prevent soreness then try to keep nipple clean and dry. You can expose them to air if you aren’t breastfeeding and of course, you are in a private place. Use of ice packs could also be beneficial.
  3. For career women who are unable to nurse on demand, breast milk can be pumped and stored if frozen for up to 6mths so your caregiver can simply thaw in a bowl of warm water [don’t microwave, valuable nutrients could be lost].

Breastfeeding can be as easy as ABC…
Watch for signs of hunger from your baby e.g. moving the hands to the mouth to suckle or moving mouth towards the breast. Breastfeeding is not done right unless it is done on demand.
Breastfeed when the child wants and don’t rush baby out of the breast.
You want to be comfortable while at it, this will help the milk flow easier.

Today, I am adding my voice in support of World Health Organization to encourage people to “Support mums to breastfeed anytime, anywhere,” as all of the society has a role to play in making our communities more breastfeeding-friendly.
… to be continued

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Dr. Thelma Okafor
Dr Thelma Okafor, a Medical Doctor is passionate about having a healthier Nation with accessible health care and citizens who are proactive about their health. She enjoys reading, writing and engaging in intellectually stimulating discussions. When she isn’t practising medicine, she likes to watch movies, explore the outdoors or lounge with friends.

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