Exclusive breastfeeding for first six months linked to economic benefits

─ other facts highlighted as National Breastfeeding Week in observance

DPI, Guyana, Monday, September 17, 2018

For the week, September 17 to 22, 2018, National Breastfeeding Week is being observed in Guyana. In Georgetown, at the Campbellville Health Centre, several mothers have been recognised for playing their part in ensuring that their babies are exclusively breastfed.

Over the years, studies have shown that well-nourished, healthy children do better in life and become more focused adolescents; making better decisions as they move into adulthood. Babies require a good dietary foundation on which every other aspect of their growth and development depends.

It has been found that mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of the child’s life reap continuous benefits on both herself and the child’s behalf as it grows. In some cases, and cultures, it is not seen as a key component of a baby’s growth and development but rather part of a substituted feeding practice.

Further, studies conducted by UNICEF found that exclusive breastfeeding contributes to poverty reduction. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months eliminates the additional burden on household budgets since it is a low-cost way to feed babies.

Children who are breastfed during this period have fewer chances of falling ill to diarrheal and other bacterial diseases, which can be deadly during this stage of their lives. Looking at the human resource index, approximately 820,000 lives could be saved across the globe if more mothers are encouraged to breastfeed.

Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of the Ministry of Public Health, Linda Johnson explained exclusive breastfeeding has additional benefits which lend to the health and well-being of an infant.

Johnson said with more breastfeeding, the public healthcare system won’t be burdened by having to lend curative interventions when the focus should be on more preventative measures. “If we should count the amount of money that we have to spend for every sick child we will realise that breastfeeding is something that we should be very passionate about pushing.”

She added that the effects of a sick baby can take away from the family’s ability to cope and eventually affect the bigger picture which is the country’s economic status where human resource, poverty and other crises are concerned.

Johnson stated, “if you are a working mother, once your baby is sick, you will have to now hand in sick leave because there is no way your baby will be sick and you’re going to work. When this happens, it results in low work attendance, low production and an overall low work output which can affect the economy.”

“Breastfeeding is not only beneficial to the baby but to the mother, the entire family and the nation at large… You don’t have to worry about anything (buying additional groceries, cooking). This allows you to save money to do other things”, Johnson further said.

UNICEF cited that breastfeeding prevents hunger and all forms of malnutrition while ensuring food security for babies in times of crises.

By: Delicia Haynes.

Images: Jameel Mohammed.

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