Exclusively for baby

  • Health
  • Sunday, 15 Aug 2004

MANY mothers may breastfeed their baby, but how many are able to breastfeed exclusively for six months? Statistics show that most mothers fall short of this goal, with some only breastfeeding for up to two months. 

The theme for World Breastfeeding Week this year, ‘Exclusive Breastfeeding: The Gold Standard – Safe, Sound and Sustainable’, aims to get more people to understand the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and to think of ways to enable mothers to do it. 

Exclusively breastfed infants receive only breast milk for six months and no other food or drinks with the exception of drops or syrups consisting of vitamins, mineral supplements or medicines.  

After these six months, breastfeeding should continue for two years or more, while complementary foods (solid and semi-solid foods) are introduced. 

Exclusive breastfeeding is regarded as “the gold standard” because it is: 

  •        SAFE – it contains protective factors which help to prevent and fight infections, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, and reduce the risk of allergic conditions, particularly asthma.  

  •        SOUND – nutrients in breast milk are present in the right quantity and they are of special quality. Breast milk even provides the water that an infant needs. Formula and other foods contain nutrients in different amounts, and of very different quality.  

  •        SUSTAINABLE – it helps a household’s food security. So long as an infant’s mother, or a wet nurse, is there, breast milk is available. A woman can make good milk from any mixture of foods, however simple.  

    Unfortunately, many babies are not breastfed exclusively, and are given other foods or drinks before breastfeeding has really started. Some parents give their babies substitutes like formula, animal milk, diluted cereals, tea or juices within a few weeks of birth, or introduce complementary foods too early (at two to four months). 

    In whom does the fault lie? Perhaps in everybody, perhaps in nobody. The truth is, despite the best intentions, mothers face all too many challenges in their daily lives, such as lack of knowledge, facilities and support from people around them, particularly their husbands, mothers and mothers-in-law.  

    Breastfeeding may be a special bond shared between mother and baby, but it takes the cooperation of many other people to make it happen. 

    Reference: World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (www.waba.org.my) 

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