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Minister concerned over poor breastfeeding habit

August 21, 2015 By Samuel Ben Turay

The Minister of Health and Sanitation has expressed serious concern over what he considered as poor breastfeeding habit particular among young girls.

Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah said breastfeeding is not common nowadays to a lot of women, especially young girls, despite the ministry’s effort in sensitising the public about the importance of breastfeeding.

He was talking to top officials in the ministry yesterday during a meeting held at the conference room at Youyi building in Freetown.

The minister, who is himself a medical doctor, said breastfeeding is a key modifiable risk factor for disease for both mothers and infants. He said his ministry had observed that lactating mothers prefer manufactured milk to breastfeeding, oblivious of the fact that young babies need breast milk, which is more natural.

“Exclusive breastfeeding for a minimum of six months is very important,” said Dr. Fofanah, who added that there are specific and innate immune factors present in human milk that provide specific protection against pathogens in the mother’s environment.

He said immune factors in milk provide protection against infections such as H influenza, S pneumonia, V cholera, E coli, and rotavirus.

“Women who do not breastfeed face higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease,” he said. “Breastfeeding can help eliminate outdated practices and provide evidence-based support on behalf of breastfeeding.”

The health minister further said that multiple studies provide evidence that formula feeding is associated with increased risks for infants and mothers compared with breastfeeding, adding that by supporting breastfeeding as the normative way to feed an infant, the obstetrician-gynecologist can play a powerful role in improving health outcomes across two generations.

He said breastfeeding poses a substantial metabolic burden on mothers, requiring 500 kilos of calories per day to supply milk for an exclusively breastfed infant.

“This metabolic load may help mobilise weight gained during pregnancy. In addition, breastfeeding is associated with more favourable glucose levels, lipid metabolism, and blood pressure. Epidemiologic studies suggest that these differences may persist after weaning with significant long-term benefits for mothers,” he said.

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