Conversation on breastfeeding needs be had in Jordan

Only 26% of children under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed in Jordan

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The world marked World Breastfeeding Week earlier this month, under the theme “Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility.” The purpose of this year’s initiative was to reinforce the importance of collective efforts to promote and protect breastfeeding for every child.اضافة اعلان

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that newborns be fed breast milk exclusively for the first 6 months of life.

Although more than nine out of ten infants are breastfed in Jordan, according to the 2017-2018 Jordan Health Survey, only 26 percent of children under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed. Comparatively speaking, Jordan is below the regional average of 34 percent. Since breastfeeding is an integral part of healthy infant development, the conversation of breastfeeding is one that needs be had in Jordan.

Health benefits of breastfeeding in children

Breast milk is more than simply sustenance for newborns; it contains many proven health benefits that cannot be supplemented, such as an abundance of antioxidants, enzymes, and immune properties.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the health benefits can be seen in infancy but also in childhood, and adulthood. Additionally, the mother may be subject to multiple benefits as well.

During infancy, breast milk helps build stronger immune systems through a process called passive immunization. Antibodies are molecules formed in the body that help fight off infections and are developed after exposure to infections. Each antibody is unique to the specific infection that the mother is exposed to and is then passed on to the infant via breast milk. This is the essence of passive immunization and it is critical in neonates, since they do not have a developed immune system of their own yet.

As a direct result of this principle, infants that are breastfed, especially exclusively for the first six months of life, have fewer instances of infections such as colds and respiratory illnesses, ear infections, bacterial meningitis, and illness overall.

In addition to building a stronger immune system to combat infections, breastfed babies have fewer cases of gastrointestinal complications such as diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux (heartburn) and other more serious complications.

Furthermore, there has been evidence suggesting that breastfeeding is linked to improvement in vision, decreased rates of infant mortality, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

During childhood, many studies have shown that there is continued health benefits in babies that were breastfed, compared to those that were not. The most well-established of these studies show fewer instances of hypersensitivity (allergies) in children, which extends to seasonal allergies, like eczema, and asthma.

These children were also less likely to have instances of childhood cancers, such as leukemia or lymphomas, Crohn’s disease and colitis, and respiratory illnesses, as well as fewer speech problems and decreased likelihood of child obesity.

Later in life, evidence has shown fewer instances of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and pre- and postmenopausal breast cancers.

Health benefits for mothers

Mothers benefit from breastfeeding their children as well, both physically and mentally. Physically, breastfeeding promotes increased weight loss due the increased demand on the body to produce milk, adding approximately 500 calories per day.

Additionally, breastfeeding simulates the uterus to contract, therefore facilitating a return to normal size. There has also been evidence to suggest that mothers have fewer cases of urinary tract infections (UTIs), postpartum bleeding and anemia.

Furthermore, studies that set out to discover long-term benefits to mothers over their lifetime have shown a potential decrease in serious illnesses such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, endometriosis, osteoporosis, diabetes, blood pressure, and heart disease.

The mental health benefits to mothers tend to be more prominent and pronounced and their mechanisms are well understood.

The hormones that are secreted in the brain in response to breastfeeding, called oxytocin and prolactin, have well-documented effects on stress reduction and general positive emotions. As a result of these hormones, as well as other mechanisms, mothers who breastfeed generally have fewer instances of postpartum depression.

Additionally, between the physiological processes and physical contact between the mother and infant, a stronger bond is formed that increases affection and helps reduce social and behavioral problems for the child later in life.

When should you not breastfeed?

Although breastfeeding is important for child development, there are instances in which a mother should not breastfeed. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a comprehensive list of diseases or medications that would prevent a mother from being able to breastfeed their child.

Generally speaking, if the mother is beginning to feel sick it is best to avoid breastfeeding temporarily until they consult their doctor.

There are certain medications as well that either should not be taken or will prevent the mother from being able to breastfeed until the cessation of the medication. For any questions or concerns relating to the safety of breastfeeding, it is strongly encouraged to have a discussion with your healthcare professional.

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