The National Department of Health has issued regulations relating to foodstuffs for infants and young children. This piece of legislation is aimed at promoting exclusive breastfeeding of infants for up to six months. It is primarily aimed at encouraging breastfeeding through limited access to nutritional information on bottle-feeding and alternative baby food.
Breast milk has since been known for its nutritional and health benefits for the child. The fact that breast milk is a good natural first food for infants cannot be disputed. Alcorn (2014) argues that infants that are exposed to breast milk and other liquids and solid food and formula feed are more prone to HIV due to exposure to allergens that irritate the gut and lead to inflammation, thus increasing the risk of HIV infection from breast Alcorn (2014). Visser & Wambi (2007) substantiate this notion in arguing that formula feeding can expose the infant to dangerous bacteria and is therefore not the ideal solution.
It provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life and also provides up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one-third during the second year of life (WHO, 2011). However, given the dynamic environment we live in where most women are working, exclusive breastfeeding for six months for particularly for working mothers could be rather an ideal.
Definition of key words
Exclusive breastfeeding- that is the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water (WHO, 2011).
DENOSA notes that:
· While some women may not breastfeed due to health reasons, most women especially young women tend to choose not to breastfeed their infants
· Malnutrition in infants leads to diseases that in turn contributes to child mortality
· Child mortality especially in the face of HIV/AIDS has largely been due to poor nutrition
DENOSA believes that
· Breast milk is the best nutrition for infants
· To curb diseases that may lead to child mortality, mothers should primarily breastfeed their infants
· In cases where due to ill-health on the mother a mother is unable to breastfeed, alternative nutritional options should be prescribed with the advice of a healthcare professional
· Exclusive breastfeeding for six months can contribute to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing child mortality
· While exclusive breastfeeding for six months is ideal for the health of the baby, the socioeconomic realities where most mothers are working mothers could make it difficult for these mothers to breastfeed exclusively without using supplementary baby foods.
· Some women naturally do not produce enough milk for them to exclusively breastfeed and therefore healthy alternative feeding mechanisms should be used in these instances and with the advice of a health professional
The nutritional benefits of breast milk are numerous and are quite essential for the baby’s development and growth. It is without doubt that breastfed children are healthier and are less likely to come into contact with diseases than babies that are not breastfed. However, the reality is that not all women choose to breastfeed and most of those women are working mothers. It is therefore essential that alternative healthy baby feeding options are made available in such instances.
World Health Organization, 2011. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months best for babies everywhere. Geneva. Switzerland
Alcorn, K. 2014. Exclusive breastfeeding may reduce risk of mother to child HIV transmission. Published on Health Systems Trust website: www.hst.org.za
Visser, P. & Wambi, D. To breastfeed or not to breastfeed. That is the question! Published on Medical Research Council Website: www.mrc.ac.za