A Cradle or a Grave – Importance of Breast Feeding
“A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warm in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three.” ~Grantly Dick-Read
The sojourn of an embryo to fetus inside the mother’s womb is well served, protected and nurtured by the placenta. When the fetus is ready to step in the next domain of the life where it won’t be guarded by the warmth, coziness and shielding ambience and will be exposed to the crude environment, at that critical part of life the child has two ways to protect itself. One from the passively transmitted immunity via placenta that vanes off by the middle of 1st year and the other being provided via nutritious mammary fluid i.e. mother’s milk. The course of breast feeding is thus called nursing.
Proper breast feeding does not only help the child to grow, develop and get healthy but also provides immunity against the endemic and epidemic diseases. It also contributes massively to the elimination of malnutrition in children, which is a burden on global health.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the basic criteria for breast feeding is to exclusively breast feed the child for first 6 months and then start complimentary feeding with iron containing meals that’ll provide extra nourishment to the child . This method combats against diarrhea, ear nose and throat infections, lower respiratory tract infections, allergies, necrotizing enterocolitis, botulism, bacteremia and urinary tract infections. Also it protects the child from infant death syndrome, lymphoma and type1 diabetes mellitus.
According to different studies conducted in this aspect children who were properly breast fed have very low ratio of these infections, allergies, heart problems and above mentioned diseases, to the ones who were formula fed children. Breast fed children have better cognitive functions and social behaviors as well.
Not only the child but also the mother is benefited by breast feeding. It also acts contraceptive, helps the mother to lose weight, and makes the mother child relationship efficacious.
Apart from this breast feeding is commercially more beneficial as compared to the formula feeding as it is cheap and convenient way of nurturing your child. Breast feeding also reduces financial burden as the expense of buying an infant formula per year is $800, along with that it also reduces the expenses on medical clinic visits due to decreased excessive medical attention as they grow.
According to a recent study, the expense of $68,000 was spent on formula fed children in a period of six months while only $4,000 were spent on similar number of nursing babies.
Powdered milk seems richer than the human milk but that’s not the case. Formula milk is formed from dried cow’s milk that works like curd and whey, well heard in nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet. It gets difficult to digest for the baby unlike human milk as human milk has more lactose. There are over 100 different components of breast milk that the baby food and pharmaceutical companies are trying to match but can’t reach the target. It has more minerals like iron and zinc. It has leukocytes and antibodies, higher carbohydrate component as well. Most important factor about breast milk is that it’s nutritional value changes according to the demand of your child as it grows.
Throughout the globe, media has been witnessed to promote the products by the baby food companies using fancy advertisements and healthy looking children. They tend to use an 11 month old child as a 6 month old and its potential of having super strength, being able to walk, putting things in mouth, splashing water out in the rain and still smiling. Wonder why? All because it’s pretty looking mum is smart too and uses tinned powder milk that is better preserved than the one inside her body, has dry immunity, germ free as baby might catch those scary germs from her breast, it uses more water as water is essential for life and is convenient to be fed in public too.
Does it all justify that powder milk is better than the mother’s milk? As medical students and doctors it is our duty to educate the mother and wipe off these misconceptions. What can be more pure than the mother’s milk? With every beat, fresh milk is formed. With each suckle loads of immunoglobulin A is introduced into a baby that will combat every germ. It has uncontaminated 100% pure water in it. Talking about uneasiness of breast feeding the child publically, what are pumping flanges for?
Working through a month of rotation at pediatric unit as a medical student, I came across 95% of the cases in which children were admitted for meningitis, diarrhea, protein calorie malnutrition and respiratory tract infections having a history of undermined breast feeding. Some fed their children up to 2 months; some up to 4 months and majority stopped feeding their baby after 6 months and when they reached teething.
This reflects to the ignored importance of breast feeding in our society. Not only in Pakistan but almost in every part of the world, inadequate nursing practices are still a major issue. In 2012, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) thus alarmed voice against decline in breast feeding practices in East Asia and invoked the importance of education mothers, doctor, nursing and medical staff along with the media as to how to promote breast feeding practices. Objection was raised on the marketing practices for promoting and drawing attention of audiences towards commercially prepared milk, thus persuading mothers to purchase their products and discouraging breast feeding. Treating the child is not our sole responsibility as doctors, keeping in mind the slogan, ‘Prevention is better than cure’ and acting upon it accordingly by educating the mothers and family for support, fulfills our goal.
About the Author: Zarmeen Qamar is a medical student from Dow Medical College, Pakistan. She is currently involved in two researches in the fields of general surgery and psychiatry. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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