Extended breastfeeding: Why you should breastfeed longer
Breastfeeding is a special service that every mother offers their child for healthy growth. It may be complicated during the first days of giving birth as some mothers experience soreness and difficulty, but this is one way for the mother and baby to bond.
A study conducted in 2020 by PLOS Global Public Health found that 36% of Ugandan children below 6 months are not breastfed exclusively despite its active promotion.
“The percentage of children exclusively breastfed decreases sharply with age, from 83% in infants 0–1 month to 69% among those 2–3 months and further to 43% among infants aged 4–5 months”, the report highlighted.
In addition, the study found that work has also been a major reason hindering exclusive breastfeeding, as mothers stop breastfeeding soon after returning to work, especially when the environment at work is not conducive for continued breastfeeding. The lack of adequate breastfeeding has in turn been associated with increasing child malnutrition
Uganda’s 51.9% of the working population is women, both in the formal and informal sectors. Of these are new mothers whose time is divided between work and nursing their babies. This means that either will get less time and in most cases, it’s the baby that misses out.
However, as engaged you are, as a mother, it is your responsibility to ensure your child gets nurtured into good health and strong immunity. It is also the child’s right to receive the required nutrients through breastfeeding. It is even better when you nurse your child for at least one year.
What is extended breastfeeding?
Extended breastfeeding is defined depending on different cultures because normally, babies are breast fed until 6 months of age and then they are introduced to soft foods. With extended breastfeeding, a mother nurses a child until one year and beyond.
For many, especially with the changing times, this may come off as an exaggeration or inconvenience but the benefits that come with extended nursing should be reason enough to nurse your child longer.
During a media interview, Edith Nassuna, the Senior Principal Nursing Officer at Mulago National Referral Hospital said that, breast milk is very precious and should be initiated within the first hour of birth until two years.
“Mothers should continue feeding the child as often as they can until it is two years old. If you can’t move with the baby, pump the breast milk, keep it in bottles and teach the babysitter how to feed the baby and how to warm it to a required temperature,” she says.
Below are some reasons why mothers should consider extended breastfeeding for their babies:
Nursing your baby for longer than the usual 6 months protects your baby from frequently falling sick. A sick baby is every mother’s nightmare and breast milk contains nutrients that protect your child from common diseases such as ear infections and upper respiratory infections.
Breast milk is an all-in-one food. It is nutritious, cheap, available and the best requirement for healthy growth in infants. The milk contains proteins, lactose, fat, iron, and potassium, which you will not find together in any other single food. Also, according to research studies, after one year of breastfeeding, the milk has higher energy and fat content. Prolonged lactation may expose the significant benefits of these nutrients in the infants’ diet.
The locking eyes, the simple cuddles and the holding of hands all is indeed special. Parents that did not have a chance to breastfeed can testify to the fact that there is always some distance. Nursing your baby allows you to relate with the little one. This activates their senses to recognize and differentiate you from the rest. The more time spent together, the stronger the bond and the easier the possibility to trust each other.
Aids health of both mother and baby
Not only is extended breastfeeding the source of comfort for your bay, this activity has long term benefits to both mother and baby. Research shows that parents who breastfeed longer are less likely to get breast and ovarian cancer.
Extended breastfeeding is always looked at as a taboo in society. Therefore, there will be lots of criticism when you decide to nurse your baby longer. Many people that don’t know what it is like are often quick to judge.
However, the decision to nurse for longer is yours to uphold. Besides the discouragements and the judgments, put your child’s needs and health first; the rest can be assessed later.