"Breastfeeding is a natural "safety net" against the worst effects of poverty. If the child survives the first month of life (the most dangerous period of childhood) then for the next four months or so, exclusive breastfeeding goes a long way toward canceling out the health difference between being born into poverty and being born into affluence…. It is almost as if breastfeeding takes the infant out of poverty for those first few months in order to give the child a fairer start in life and compensate for the injustice of the world into which it was born."– James P. Grant, UNICEF’s 3rd Executive Director
According to an article by UNICEF, breastfeeding is the healthiest start of children in life. It is also one of the simplest, smartest, and most cost-effective ways of ensuring that all children across the globe survive and thrive.
Breastfeeding benefits both mother and child. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth because it helps protect the newborn from acquiring infections; it also reduces newborn mortality. Several studies have also shown that children that are breastfed by their mothers tend to be more intelligent; they perform better compared to those children that are only bottle-fed.
As for mothers, breastfeeding can help decrease their risk of having various cancers like breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer. It can also help promote emotional health and lessen their chance of having osteoporosis.
Breastfeeding and Social Challenges
Breastfeeding is a responsibility not a choice. And the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes it is more of a public issue rather than a lifestyle choice.
Danielle Rigg, co-founder of breastfeeding advocate Best for Babes, praised AAP for equating breastfeeding with public health.
"In framing it that way, it becomes all of our responsibility — not just moms — to provide both the infrastructure and the social support to see to it that as many moms and babies as possible can do it," she says. "If we can do it for breast cancer, we can do it for breastfeeding," Rigg adds.
Montana State University in Bozeman, USA has conducted an experimental examination that focuses on the biases that breastfeeding mothers get. Results have shown that breastfeeding women are rated less competent in general, especially at work. Compared to all other conditions, they are said to less likely be hired and are also viewed as women with sexualized breasts when they breastfeed in public.
"A woman may not breastfeed because of worry over how she will be evaluated by other people," the researchers conclude. "Data from the current project suggest this worry may be warranted, to the extent that breastfeeding is a devalued social category," they add.
People generally support breastfeeding because they believe that mother’s milk is best for babies. However, when it comes to breastfeeding in public, some tend to get offended by it. But as breastfeeding advocates put it, "If you do not support breastfeeding in public, you do not support breastfeeding.
The case is no different in the Philippines. "We know we have a lot more things to do to make other people realize our advocacy – to normalize breastfeeding. Our society needs it. In a country where people are suffering from extreme poverty, breastfeeding is one of the greatest things to do to nourish our child. And we hope that time will come when people are smiling instead of getting annoyed or offended when they see breastfeeding mothers," says Jaime De Guzman, a 25-year-old father and a supporter of Breastfeeding Pinays.
Support Breastfeeding Initiatives
World Health Organization underscores the importance of breastfeeding because it is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. "Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system, and society at large," it emphasizes.
In celebration of National Breastfeeding Month, here are some practical tips for breastfeeding mothers: (See link: www.bellybelly.com.au.)
Ditch Feeding Routine. Feed your baby when he or she appears to want the breast. You can also prevent an upset, crying baby if you pick up early hunger signals. Crying is a late hunger signal. Offering the breast even when you’re not sure what your baby wants does no harm. Remember, the more your baby feeds, the more your breasts will supply.
Avoid Dummies or Pacifiers. The less your baby is on your breast, the less your nipples are being stimulated, so the less milk you will make. Check with a lactation consultant before you decide to get a nipple shield. Your sore nipples could be due to a poor latch, so correcting the problem first is important.
Drink A Lot of Water. Breastfeeding makes for thirsty work, and your body will suffer if you’re not drinking plenty of water – to the tune of constipation, hemorrhoids, and anal fissures. When you don’t drink enough water, your energy, concentration, and focus also suffer.
Eat Healthy. Make sure you’re eating enough nutritious food to produce sufficient breastmilk. Going on a diet is not recommended unless it is specifically breastfeeding friendly. Breastfeeding mothers need more calories than a non-breastfeeding woman. However, they should be nutritious calories, not empty calories, which can be found in processed foods, sugars, and wheat/grain products. Make sure you’re getting plenty of leafy greens, good fats (avocado, chia seeds, eggs, salmon), and fresh vegetables in a range of colors, protein, nuts, and seeds.
The addition of the nutritious leaves of Moringa Oleifera into the meal plan is also recommended. Valued for being a powerhouse of nutrients, Moringa Oleifera continues to amaze researchers with its life-giving and life-nourishing qualities. Several studies have shown that it can also help lactating mothers to produce more milk for their infants.
In a double-blinded study done by a team of doctors from the Pediatrics Department of the Philippine General Hospital in 2000, mothers of preterm infants who consumed commercially available capsules containing 250mg of Moringa’s leaves twice daily increased milk production by day 5 by a staggering 152 to 176 percent.
The researchers concluded their study by recommending Moringa’s"… routine use among mothers of preterm infants to augment lactation, thereby ensuring an adequate supply of breastmilk in the population that needs it the most."
When it comes to Moringa supplementation, out in the market today is the Malungai LifeOil natural food supplement. Made from pure Moringa oil extract, it makes the natural benefits of Moringa easily distributed and absorbed by the body. A healthy and nourished breastfeeding mother makes for a healthy and nourished breastmilk-dependent baby. This is what Malungai LifeOil wants to help achieve.
"A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three," said British obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read, also a former leading advocate of natural childbirth.
Breastfeeding is not just about milk; it is about love. It is high time we give our babies the gift of nature – food from their mother’s breasts.
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