Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) can be defined as a practice whereby the infant receive only breast milk without mixing it with water, other liquids, tea, herbal preparations or food in the first six months of life, with the exception of vitamins, mineral supplements or medicines.
Breastfeeding an infant exclusively for the first six months of life carries numerous benefits such as lowered risk of gastrointestinal infection, pneumonia, otitis media and urinary tract infection in the infant while mothers return to her pre-pregnant weight.
CHARACTERISTICS OF BREAST MILK
Milk is unique in its physical structure and types of concentrations of protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals, enzymes, hormones, growth factors, host resistance factors, inducers and modulators of the immune system and anti-inflammatory agents. There are three (3) phases of milk namely; colostrum, transitional milk and mature milk, each with distinct characteristics.
COLOSTRUM: is a yellowish colored fluid that is first produced from the breast which help with retinal development in infants. It has also been stated that the amount of colostrum obtained is limited but is rich in nutrient and substances that the infant needs in the first days of life. The “liquid gold” is rich in proteins, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals and immunoglobulins A-lgA. It should be noted that lgA protects the infant’s immune system by identifying and destroying foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses. Another advantage of colostrum is that the mother will have less blood loss because the uterine contracts as the baby suckle.
Furthermore, colostrum also contains white blood cells which help to prevent infection in the infant and it also consists of lactose which prevents hypoglycemia and at the same time helps the newborn to pass meconium.
TRANSITIONAL MILK: It is used to describe the postcolostal period (7 to 21 days postpartum) when the composition of the milk changes more slowly than in the first few days following parturition. The content of transitional milk includes high level of fat, lactose, water soluble vitamins and more calories than colostrum but lower level of lgA.
MATURE MILK: It consists of 90% water which is required to maintain hydration of the infant and the remaining 10% consists of carbohydrates, proteins and fats which are important for the growth and to meet the energy needs of the baby. There are two types of mature milk: Foremilk and Hind-milk.
ADVANTAGES OF BREASTFEEDING TO MOTHERS
- Promotes bonding between mother and her baby.
- Reduce the risk of endometrial, ovarian and breast cancer.
- Prevents postpartum hemorrhage.
- Helps to reduce excessive weight gain acquired during pregnancy.
- Enhance child spacing.
ADVANTAGES OF BREASTFEEDING TO INFANTS
- Prevents infection as it increases their immunity.
- Enlightens the brain.
- Prevents infant mortality and morbidity.
- Prevents diarrhea and other childhood illnesses
- Reduce the risk/prevents obesity in infants.
- Decreased risk of allergies and lactose intolerance.
- It is a superior nutrition for baby’s growth.
ALADE OLUWAKEMISOLA OPEYEMI
MERCY GROUP CLINICS, ABEOKUTA, OGUN STATE.