By Steve Oko
A cross-section of nursing and young mothers in Abia State has narrated how exclusive breastfeeding being promoted by UNICEF has saved them some fortunes.
Apart from saving costs, some of the young mothers also confessed that their children hardly fall sick compared to some of their neighbours who do not observe exclusive breastfeeding.
The mothers spoke on the heels of the 2021 Exclusive Breastfeeding week promoted by UNICEF with the theme:”Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility.”
They identified delayed ovulation, the fitness of the mother, and closer bonding between mother and baby as part of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.
Mrs Blessing Iheukwumere, 44, told Vanguard in Umuahia that she observed exclusive breastfeeding for all her babies for six months each before introducing them to baby formula.
The mother of five and a career civil servant said that she made up her mind to practise exclusive breastfeeding based on teachings she received during antenatal clinics supported by UNICEF.
She said that although she initially never wanted to strictly observe the practice for convenience but decided to practice it because of the inherent numerous gains.
According to her, her first trial with her first baby now in secondary school convinced her that exclusive breastfeeding remained “the best, safest and cheapest for all”.
” When I gave birth to my first baby I said let me give it a try based on what we were told during antenatal.
” I quickly discovered it was the best and cheapest because what I was doing was to eat very well. You can’t compare the food I ate to the cost of a baby formula which is unaffordable for many families.
” I can tell you that all my children are very healthy and doing well in school because I made sure they ate nothing other than breastmilk for the first six months of their lives and even after I introduced other supplements after six months I breastfeed them for at least one year.
” Any mother not practising exclusive breastfeeding is losing because the cost of baby formula it will save them can achieve a lot for the family.
” It’s true that it will make you be always around to feed the baby but whatever sacrifice I make for the good of my baby I count it as nothing”.
Another young mother, Mrs Onyinyechi Oko told Vanguard that based on literature she had read about the benefits of breastfeeding, she had already looked forward to observing the practice when she would start having babies.
The university don and mother of four said that she personally derived joy in breastfeeding her babies as the practice bonded them together with the more.
She said that she exclusively breastfed each of her babies for six months and thereafter continued breastfeeding them with other food supplements for up to a year and two months.
” All my kids are healthy and not sickly. The practice also made me save some money for my husband because if you calculate what we spent on baby formula after the first six months you will realize how much we saved in the first six months when it was only breastmilk.
” I will encourage every nursing mother to embrace exclusive breastfeeding because the benefits outweigh the inconveniences. Some avoid it because of the unfortunate notion that it will make them have flat breasts forgetting the reason God gave them breast in the first place”.
Similarly, Mrs Onyinyechi Amos, mother of three said she opted for exclusive breastfeeding because of the huge inherent benefits based on lectures she received during antenatal.
She also said she embraced the practice because of the testimonies of her brother’s wife who observed it.
” I decided to go for it because of the many gains in exclusive breastfeeding both for the baby and mother. It boosts the immunity of the baby.
” Based on the teachings I had about it and the testimonies of my brother’s wife, I decided to go for it. I tried it on my first baby and discovered it’s very beneficial. It’s also hygienic. You won’t be thinking of washing plates for the baby to feed as you feed it directly.
” I also discovered that we rarely visited the hospital as a result of sickness. My baby was just okay and doing fine, so I decided to observe it for all my babies. I’m happy doing that. Any mother who does not observe exclusive breastfeeding loses a lot, spends more and exposes her baby to sickness.”
But another nursing mother, Mrs Modester, 31, and mother of three, said she was not observing exclusive breastfeeding because of her mother’s interference “who feels I’m starving the baby of water.”
“I would have loved to practise exclusive breastfeeding based on what we were told during antenatal but because of my mother’s insistence that we must give water to the baby, I have no choice but to obey her”.
In an interview, the Officer in charge of Ipupe Health Centre, Umuahia South, Mrs Stella Okoro expressed satisfaction with the level of compliance with exclusive breastfeeding by mothers that visit the centre.
Mrs Okoro who is the Abia State Master trainer, Family Planning for Long Lasting Contraceptives, said that the centre in collaboration with UNICEF had embarked on aggressive sensitisation of pregnant women who visit the centre for antenatal, educating them on the gains of exclusive breastfeeding.
” We encourage them to initiate exclusive breastfeeding immediately after delivery due to its many health benefits.
” Some mothers say they want to give water to their babies but we discourage that. We tell them that the breastmilk contains enough water for the baby.
” We also let them understand that colostrum which is the first breastmilk after birth (yellow in colour) is full of immunity for the baby.
” I’m happy that many mothers who come here for antenatal have now embraced exclusive breastfeeding after our lectures.”
But the Coordinator, Baby Friendly Initiative, Abia State Primary Health Development Agency, Mrs Chinwe Eke, put the compliance level of nursing mothers to exclusive breastfeeding in the state at 18% according to Multiple Indicator Cluster survey conducted in 2016.
She said it had increased from 17% in the previous survey, adding that the agency is intensifying efforts towards promoting the practice.
In a media chat, UNICEF Nutrition Manager, Enugu zone, Dr Hanifa Namusoke, insisted that “exclusive breastfeeding is cheap and highly rewarding”, urging nursing mothers to embrace the practice.
She explained that every child needs the first breastmilk after birth “which is yellow and thick”, saying that it is a good immune booster and contains vaccines.
According to her, breastfeeding is the best source of nourishment for infants and young children, and a proven life-saving strategy that helps protect children against many common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.
The UNICEF Nutrition boss said that breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be obese or overweight and are less prone to non-communicable diseases later in life.
Vanguard News Nigeria