It is a common site in healthcare practice that the nursing mother would stop weaning the child and would initiate bottle feeding using commercially available alternatives to breastfeeding. The healthcare professionals including nurses, pediatricians and physicians would have made a lot of efforts convince the mother against this step. However, in spite of this, the mother would suddenly stop breastfeeding and start with bottle-feeding. This may be mainly because the mother may not know the importance of breastfeeding. She may feel it difficult, inconvenient and get impatient to feed the child. Besides, the mother would also be feeling that the commercial alternatives are able to provide all the benefits that breast-milk provides. The mother has to be persuaded (with several facts of breast-feeding) so that she would continue with the healthy practice.
Breastfeeding confers a huge number of benefits, some of which are not known. The mother may be unaware of several benefits of breastfeeding. It helps build the child’s immune mechanism. Studies have demonstrated that children who are breastfed regularly develop better immune systems, are able to resist diseases better and can survive better than the exclusively bottle-fed child. If the practice is suddenly stopped, the child could develop several abnormalities in growth and development, which could be disastrous later in life. In Sao Paola, Brazil, a project was implemented to create awareness of the benefits of the breastfeeding to the nursing mother. A survey was conducted before the project was implemented (that is in 1981) and after the project was implemented (that is in 1987). The results that were obtained were amazing and surprised many. There was a reduction in about 49 % of the infant fatality rate. This was mainly because the mothers developed healthy practices following the education programs. Infant mortalities arising from diarrhea (32%), respiratory infections (22%), followed by other infections (17%) were reduced (Carlos Monteiro. 1990). Another study conducted by the WHO in Zambia, demonstrated that during the 1970’s when there was a trend to bottle fed the baby, a simultaneous increase in the infant mortality was observed (by about 35 %) (WHO. 1997).
Malnutrition has also been related to infant mortalities, and studies have demonstrated that poor feeding practices could result in the child becoming weak and further experiencing a lot of problems. Several other factors such as infections, diarrheas, viral infections, etc, could combine along with malnutrition resulting in an increase in the infant mortality rates (WHO. 1997).
Breast milk contains several unique substances, in the right amounts which help the baby to grow and develop in a normal way. It contains lactoferrin (to help absorb iron), lipases (helps to breakdown fats), growth factors and hormones (to help in normal growth and development). The content of the breast milk adapts itself according to the changing nutritional needs of the developing baby. Babies prematurely born also benefit hugely from breastfeeding. Commercial formulas may not be suitable for premature babies. The composition of the breast milk may be altered in such cases, to suit the requirements of the premature baby. (Alicia Dermer. 1997).
The first vaccine the baby receives is the mother’s milk. This contains several immunoglobulins which protect the baby from common digestive tract and respiratory infections. The baby may be protected from several disorders such lymphomas, celiac disease, tropical sprue, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, pneumonia, gastroenteritis, ear infections, etc. The baby may also be protected from certain allergic conditions such as asthma and eczema. Once the child is immunized through the routine vaccination schedules, it may receive effective protection from several diseases. Frequently, the effect of breastfeeding depends on the duration the baby is breastfed (Alicia Dermer. 1997).
The WHO has conducted a lot of research on the way children who are breastfed grow and develop, and the way children who are fed with commercially available supplements grow and develop. The ability of the child to gain weight immediately after it is born is better with breast milk than with commercially available supplements. On the other hand, babies fed with formulas become overweight later in life as adults, leading to obesity. Studies have shown that breastfeeding also improves the mental functioning of the child. Certain substances that help in the development and functioning of the brain such as docosohexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid are present in the breast milk and this would ensure that the child develops normal IQ levels. The cognitive functions such as learning and alertness are also better with breastfeeding (WHO. 1997).
Studies conducted by the WHO have demonstrated that 10 % of all disorders that occur in children below the age of five years may be related with breastfeeding. Thus an improvement in the breastfeeding practices could result in children having lower prevalence of childhood diseases and a better quality of life (WHO. 1997).
It is very important that the reasons for stoppage of the practice are discussed with the mother. She may be experiencing several issues including physical, social, and psychological that may prove to be a barrier to continue with the healthy practice. However, if the mother is appropriately demonstrated the benefits of the practice (through the finding of various studies), she would reverse her decision and begin with breastfeeding again (M. Jane Heinig. 2006).
Alicia Dermer, and Anne Montgomery. “Breastfeeding: Good For Babies, Mothers, And The Planet.” 1997. The Medical Reporter. 5 Apr. 2007 http://medicalreporter.health.org/tmr0297/breastfeed0297.html
Carlos Monteiro. “Can infant mortality be reduced by promoting breastfeeding? Evidence from Sao Paulo city,” Health Policy and Planning 5.1 (1990): http://heapol.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/5/1/23?ijkey=bf35795e6529613b6fec03e6b8d55a32ca8a1f75
CDC. “Breastfeeding: Promotion & Support.” 2005. CDC. 5 Apr. 2007 http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/promotion/index.htm
M. Jane Heinig. “The Ones That Got Away: When Breastfeeding Mothers Wean Their Infants Despite Our Efforts,” J Hum Lact 22.4 (2006):
WHO Fact sheet. “Reducing Mortality from Major Childhood Killer Diseases.” 1997. WHO. 5 Apr. 2007 http://www.who.int/child-adolescent-health/New_Publications/IMCI/fs_180.htm
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