When Edith Mukamurigo was eight months pregnant she started inquiring about breastfeeding. She took a class on breastfeeding to learn a few practical tips from experienced moms in order to avoid breastfeeding problems.
She wanted to raise a healthy baby with a strong immune system.
Mukamurigo said breastfeeding is a sensitive issue and many mothers know the indisputable benefits of a mother’s breast milk on the health of their babies, however, she cited that many others disregard it by saying “it is time consuming and painful.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusively feeding a child breast milk for the first six months of its life. In 2001, the WHO announced that its member states consider adapting the recommendation that infants should be exclusively breast fed for six months.
Andre Gitembagara, President of the Nurses and Midwives Association, also Project Officer of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA) in Rwanda says that studies have shown that women are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression while breastfeeding their babies.
“Both babies and mothers greatly benefit from the unique closeness that breastfeeding offers. This often results in lower anxiety levels and enhanced feelings of connectedness between mother and child” he said.
On financial advantages of breastfeeding, Gitembagara says that not only do breast feeding mothers have increased savings.
“Families with breastfeeding mothers spend less sums of money on medical bills, as babies who are breastfed rarely become sick. Besides, breast milk is not expensive and easier for babies to digest than formula.
“You might be surprised to hear that not only does breastfeeding take less time than bottle feeding; but also relaxes new moms and even carries long term health benefits for a mother as well as for the baby.”
Gitembagara says that mothers nursing their infants will spend lots of one-on-one time with their baby. This opens an opportunity to get to know the baby very well and become her favorite person in the world.
“It is so amazing that in those six weeks after the birth of a child, a mother really understands what each baby cry means. The baby might cry and fuss when others hold him, but he will settle down immediately when the real mother picks and puts him/her to her breast,” Gitembagara explained.
Several research findings point to the beneficial effect of breast milk on a baby’s intellectual development.
Breastfed babies score an average of eight points higher on IQ tests than formula-fed babies, and this seems to hold true even when things like parent’s educational and socio-economic backgrounds are factored in.
Breastfeeding helps mothers lose weight
When pregnant, a woman’s body automatically layers on extra fatty tissue in order to have enough fat stores to begin and support breastfeeding.
“After you have your baby, if what you eat is varied and well balanced, breastfeeding can help you lose your pregnancy weight without compromising either your health or your baby’s by dieting. And you naturally lose weight to make breast milk every time you nurse your child,” Gitembagara adds.
Jane Kaitesi, a 34-year-old mother says that she gained a lot of weight when she was pregnant but lost it faster than she thought while breastfeeding.
“When I was pregnant I gained about 15kgs but after six weeks of breastfeeding, I had lost 13kgs and by 12 weeks I have lost it all. I am thankfully back wearing in my pre-pregnancy clothes. I think a lot of it has to do with eating right,” Kaitesi says.
Conclusively, Gitembagara says that, “breastfeeding is the best human food for newborn babies.”
“Breastfeeding is a life-affirming act of love. Breast milk is the most complete source of naturally balanced nutrition available for the baby. The only food an infant needs during the first six months of life is breast milk,” he says.
The Ministry of Healthy and its partners has long encouraged breastfeeding for at least six months and have seen impressive results where mothers are 100 percent breastfeeding their infants.