Mothers advised to take breastfeeding seriously
By Elizabeth Namara
According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS,2016), 9.6 percent of all babies were born with low birth weight.
29 percent of the children aged between 6-59 months were stunted (low height of age), 11 were underweight (low weight for age), and 4 percent were wasted (low weight for height).
The UDHS, 2016 also shows that 66 percent of children initiated breastfeeding within the first hour of life, and only 66 percent of children are exclusively breastfed. In Uganda, 53 percent of the children under 5 were anemic and 32 percent of women aged 15-49 years are anemic.
According to Ms. Jackie Mary Walusimbi, a nutritionist at St. Francis Hospital Nsambya, these percentages are very low.
Ms. Walusimbi noted that maternal nutrition is a very crucial component and contributes to the health of both the mother and the baby.
9 percent of women aged 15-49 years are thin and this contributes to low birth weight in the child. Overweight and obesity in pregnant women could as well, lead to gestational diabetes which eventually affects the growing fetus. In Uganda, women who are overweight and obese increased from 17 percent to 24 percent in 2016.
The importance of breastfeeding includes; developing, growing, maintaining, replacing, and replacing cells and tissues, resisting, fighting infection and recovering from illness, producing energy, warmth, movement, and work, and carrying out chemical processes in the body among others.
Breastfeeding promotes healthy brain development. It is a convenient way of feeding since breast milk is at the right temperature and available at any time.
However, “Poor nutrition increases the risk of; deficient growth and development, illness and infection, death, decreased ability to work, learn and perform in school,” Ms. Walusimbi pointed out.
While presenting at a recent Busoga Health Forum CME webinar, Ms. Walusimbi emphasized the early initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour after delivery. She recommended exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, timely initiation of complementary feeds at six months, and continued breastfeeding up to 2 years and beyond.
She noted: “Breast-milk substitutes may be used on medical recommendation and should be used on time.” She added that mothers should be taught how to express milk and cup feed if the baby is unable to breastfeed.
It is believed that children who are breastfed for longer periods have lower rates of infectious diseases and death than children who are breastfed for shorter periods or who are not breastfed. Longer periods of breastfeeding are associated with a reduction in a child’s risk of being overweight or obese.
According to Walusimbi, breastfeeding could protect mothers from breast cancer, and diabetes among others.
For pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in all nutrients, and also drinking plenty of fluids is crucial. They are to limit or desist from caffeine and alcohol consumption.
“You don’t need to follow a special diet while breastfeeding. But, it’s a good idea to eat a healthy and varied diet. Breastfeeding mums require an extra 450 calories from sugar or refined carbohydrates. A balanced, healthy diet will help you and your little one to get all the vitamins, proteins, minerals, and calories you need without adding excess weight,” she added.
Ms. Walusimbi called upon family members to always take care of breastfeeding mothers in their households to avoid stress and other factors that may affect the supply of breast milk.
August 2022 was the breastfeeding month, and the theme: “Together We Can Do Great Things” acknowledged the need to work together to support women choosing to breastfeed.