Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Why many women don’t breastfeed their babies

With the theme “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers”, the World Health Organisation has renewed its campaign in globally canvassing support for breastfeeding. This year’s weeklong celebration which started onAugust 1 is expected to run through to August 7. In this report, KEHINDE OYETIMI looks at the behaviouralimpediments to exclusive breastfeeding and what makes it unattractive among some women.

HARVARD trained financial analyst, Bomi, had thought marriage would not change many things in her life. With an analytical mind, she decided planning was all that mattered. So she made her plans. A little after a year in marriage, she got pregnant and after the normal duration, gave birth to a set of twins. Then her whole world started crumbling. She had made plans for one baby, not two! “I had wanted one, not two,” she exclaimed, insisting that fate was playing tricks on her.
As she sat in the hospital bed, she wondered what would happen to her physique which she had prided herself so much on.

Her mother’s elation at the sight of the babies stabbed through her world of worries. “Aren’t they lovely?” she had her mother say. Bomi couldn’t believe the transformation that was going through her body. Her breasts had filled up with milk; she could barely comprehend what was happening.
The nurses brought the babies to her, placed them on her laps and instructed her to start breastfeeding them. Young Bomi wondered why she felt awkward with the tiny creatures.
“Is this how I will bring my breasts out before people just to breastfeed these things? Is something not wrong with me? Why don’t I feel as happy as those around me? I am in big problem,” she thought to herself.
The babies’ whining brought her back to her environment. With her face caked into a pretentious smile, she placed one of her nipples in the mouth of the first baby and it immediately stopped crying. She gave the other nipple to the second one and it equally stopped its whining. With the children grabbing and suckling ferociously, Bomi felt a part of her being pulled away by these tiny creatures. She wondered if she would ever recover from this ‘nightmare’ called breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding dates back to the earliest periods of the evolution of man and his society. Babies were fed by their mothers. But with the gradual process of civilisation, breastfeeding began to be seen as something that belittled the class image of women in elite societies. They felt so strongly that only commoners should be seen breastfeeding their babies. In order to keep their babies and status in the society, royal women employed wet nurses to take care of the suckling needs of their children.
Even in the 1990s, the practice was reportedly considered old-fashioned and disgusting to a large class of women. The attitude to the practice was not only negative, it also worsened when substitutes to breast milk filled the markets and malls. Cultural beliefs, practices and public perception have played quite considerable roles, especially in acting as barriers to breastfeeding. For some women, breastfeeding creates an “unnecessary” burden of having to respond to the needs of the baby as often demanded.

Career versus motherhood
The increasingly disturbing aspirations and corporate goals of many organisations have placed herculean tasks on women. In many organisations, pregnant women are believed to be liabilities to their employers, especially when they are nursing their babies and breastfeeding them. Nursing mothers, after returning from their maternity leave, find it difficult to adapt to their new life as mothers at the place of work.  
Medical experts have equally identified postnatal depression as one of the keys killers of the joy of motherhood. The major transformations that occur in the woman’s body, if not properly handled, can be traumatising to a first timer in the motherhood business, who is conscious of her physique.
Quite disturbing is the growing crave for artificial breast implants. With the use of silicons in replacing the mammary glands, it blots out every possibility of breastfeeding.
Chief among its aims for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is to draw attention to the importance of peer support in helping mothers to establish and sustain breastfeeding; to inform people of the highly effective benefits of Peer Counselling, and unite efforts to expand peer counselling programmes; to encourage breastfeeding supporters, regardless of their educational background; to step forward and be trained to support mothers and babies; to identify local community support contacts for breastfeeding mothers, that women can go to for help and support after giving birth; to seek legislation that combats aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes and enacts paid maternity leave for breastfeeding women.

The balloon theory
Despite the laudable benefits of breastfeeding, beauty expert, Nnenna Ofor, told Sunday Tribune that many women, conscious of their physique, would still prefer not to breastfeed. She compared the breasts after pregnancy to deflated balloons.
“The 21st Century woman, more especially, now has the understanding that there is something about a woman’s breasts that makes men not think very straight. Science has also proven that such attraction is coded in a man’s genetic make-up. The attraction is fuelled when the breasts have not been overwhelmed by gravity
“Women like attention. They like compliments. They always want the feeling that they look good and are attractive. This makes them go to whatever length to achieve that. Over the years, it has been noted that breastfeeding makes the breasts sag. So most women reason that if breastfeeding would give them deflated, saggy boobs, they won’t engage in it.
“But the irony is that breastfeeding isn’t the culprit. Pregnancy in itself is a major reason. The body prepares for motherhood by increasing the size of the breasts to accommodate milk. Naturally when she gives birth and breastfeeds the breasts would deflate. Think of it as a balloon,” she said.
Mrs Anthonia Olubolade takes a different perspective, arguing that breastfeeding does not make the breasts sag. Speaking on her experience as a mother, she stated that “As a matter of fact, breastfeeding was a satisfying experience, having to nurture a life you brought to the world. As for feeding in the public, it’s not a problem as long as you know how to be modest. The first experience of breastfeeding was awesome. Seeing the tiny human being look into your eyes brings an overwhelming emotion you cannot describe.
“That sagging as far as I am concerned is a lie. Breastfeeding doesn’t make the breasts sag. Nature takes care of that. It is sad that these kinds of woman don’t understand that they are being selfish by not feeding their children. They are depriving them of amazing health benefits that come with breast milk.
“That clamouring is long overdue. What most women don’t know is that breastfeeding their children protects them from illnesses and they, the parents, from emotional trauma and financial wastage. I have a nine-year-old child and in all of those nine years, he’d only been to the doctor’s twice – one for an infection – sepsis and the other for teething problem.”

Breast milk as tonic for children
Corroborating Olubolade’s stand, Mrs Morohunkeji Olatunji, stated that “As a mother, breastfeeding is not an easy thing. At the same time, it is the best thing any woman will wish to do for a child. I can bring my breasts out anywhere as long as my baby needs to be feed.
“The initial experience was really very crazy. You feel a kind of pain in your brain feeding the baby. But, with time, the pain stops and you enjoy feeding your baby again. My husband has been very supportive which I want all husbands to be.”
For Mrs Olufikayo Oladejo, “the consequences of breastfeeding on my body were not a major concern to me as long as my husband was not worried about it. For us we fully supported breastfeeding and, as such, my husband was not bothered with me breastfeeding his children,” she explained.
But while some have argued that exclusive breastfeeding is useful, others believe that the practice is asking for too much. Beauty model, Whitney Nwabuokei, kicked against exclusive breastfeeding. “I don’t subscribe to 100 per cent exclusive breastfeeding. We can always substitute with water, at the tender stage and consequently with approved infant formula. This doesn’t alter the feeding process in any way, but instead, it gives the woman some time for herself, especially when she is a career woman or model/ socialite, as the case may be.
“I hate it when I have to move around 24 hours a day with the baby strapped to my back. Exclusive breastfeeding is completely uncalled for because by then the woman’s breasts would have come crashing down like the walls of Jericho.”
Taking a swipe at men who are said to be so obsessed with their wives’ breasts much that they frown on the practice of breastfeeding babies, Mrs Oluwajomiloju Adeyemi said: “It is an insecure man that would be jealous of his baby. Did such men not drink their own mothers’ breast milk?  If you as a man know that breast milk protects your baby against infections, such as gastro-intestinal, respiratory & viral then, you shouldn’t begrudge your child the opportunity to feed well. Moreover, it’s a matter of time.  The child won’t be breastfed forever. Most women stop breastfeeding their babies before they are a year old, these days. After which, the father can have his wife’s breasts for as long as he wants.”
Breastfeeding as early influencer on children’s IQ
A new study solidifies the connection between breast-feeding and intelligence, but it’s not the only way that mom can influence youngsters’ IQ, even before birth.
While previous studies have drawn a link between breastfeeding and cognition, and even extended an association to higher social status, it’s never been absolutely clear whether the connection was due to the breast milk or to the bond that the practice builds between mom and child, which can itself enhance brain development. Or, for that matter, whether it was mom’s (and dad’s) own education and social status that filtered through in their parenting that contributed to their children’s IQ.
But researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, reporting in JAMA Pediatrics, say they have conducted the most comprehensive study to date to flesh out how much breast feeding influences brain development in youngsters. They teased away as many factors known to contribute to intelligence as possible, such as mother’s IQ, parental income and education, and whether the toddlers spent time in child care outside of the home.
They also collected detailed information from 1,312 babies and mothers on how long the moms breast fed their babies, whether the infants were exclusively breastfed, and how much fish the mothers consumed, since omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish are also present in breast milk and known to influence brain development.
The longer the mothers breastfed, the more likely their children were to score higher on  vocabulary tests at age 3 and on intelligence tests at age 7. Breastfeeding during a child’s first year of life could boost their IQ by about four points when they enter school.
Was it the breast milk? Some studies are starting to focus on the nutrients, such as the fatty acids docosahexaenoicacid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA), present in breast milk, but there’s no solid evidence that these are responsible for enhancing neural connections or promoting development of cognitive regions of the brain.
Even without that evidence, the latest findings will likely fuel efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding, which have been growing in recent decades. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization support advise new mothers to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their babies’ lives, and continue for at least one year. But in the U.S., many mothers who start the practice don’t maintain it for the full fix months. “The problem currently is not so much that most women do not initiate breast-feeding, it is that they do not sustain it. In the United States about 70% of women overall initiate breast-feeding… However, by six months, only 35% … are still breast-feeding,” writes Dr. Dimitri Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute in an editorial accompanying the study.
But it’s not just breastfeeding that can have an impact on a child’s cognitive development. It turns out that expectant moms can have a significant influence on her baby’s intelligence thanks to the air she breathes and the foods she eats. That’s in addition to the influence that she and other family members continue to have on brain development during a child’s life
Source: Time.com

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