Health & lifestyle

Breastfeeding lowers the Risk of Cancer

By Prof. A. A. Bamigoye

Prof. A. A. Bamigboye while delivering a key note address  during the 2016 World Breastfeeding Day tagged “Support mums to breastfeed anytime, anywhere” noted the importance of breastfeeding.

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Good health is one of the 17 SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015. These goals, which have about 170 targets, is to be implemented from year 2016 to 2030 using natural resources that meet immediate needs of human and ensuring that future generations have access to such resources.

The natural instinct of man is to protect, nurse and enhance the health of its progeny by breastfeeding her infants. The westernisation doctrine and social circumstances have shifted focus away from the endowed and innate natural breastfeeding phenomenon to the use of formula feeding.

Formula feed cannot be sustainable in view of the fact that it does not improve the health of child rearing. Infant mortality and morbidity will increase due to many factors. It is in the domain of politics that sustained approach to breastfeeding could be altered. It could be altered by continuous enlightenment of the populace by the policy makers as to the unparalled advantage of sustained exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of live.

What are the advantages?

The World health Organisation advocates that infants the world over should be breastfed exclusively from birth to six months of age. Breastfeeding is supported by extensive evidence for short-term and long-term health benefits, for both mother and baby.

Babies who are not fully breastfed for the first three to four months are more likely to suffer from significant levels of health problems such as gastroenteritis, respiratory and ear infections, urinary tract infections, failure to thrive, allergies and diabetes mellitus.

Breastfed infants survive better than non- breastfed. The risk of infant morbidity and mortality improves. Breastfeeding reduces hospitalisation rate.  It reduces sudden infant syndrome death rate. It reduces the risk of childhood cancer of the blood called leukaemia.

The initial breast fluid secretion in the few hours of birth called colostrum, confers immunogenic advantage over formula fed infants. It reduces the risk of later type 2 diabetes and reduces childhood obesity and cardiovascular risk.

Economically, savings are made from buying formula feed.  Few governments subsidise formula feed but yet the women choose to bottle feed their babies. Research revealed that most women who do not breast fed do have their reasons. They are avulsed to it due loss of their privacy, disfiguring of breast architecture, the absence of conducive environments to breastfeeding and negative perception including unfriendly employment practices.

An active and proactive breastfeeding campaign was shown in a study of 582 women who are of low socioeconomic status that improved breastfeeding uptake was achieved in targeted breastfeeding campaign during their antenatal care.  This showed that health education and peer support interventions can result in some improvements in the number of uptake to breast feeding.

The longer the duration of breastfeeding, the more the advantage that is accrued to the baby and the mother.

Breastfeeding lowers the mother risk to many cancer including breast cancer and ovarian cancer. One can imagine the resources that the nation will save to manage the number of cases of preventable cancers just by breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding prevents weak bones (osteoporosis) in the mothers and reduces cardiovascular diseases.

Breastfeeding mothers are less obese and may be less busting.

Only 17% in Nigeria practice exclusive breastfeeding and 38% of babies born by Nigerians who reside in Nigeria breastfeed their babies born within 1 hour of birth.

Many westernised mothers believe that breastfeeding sags the breast but stretching of breast ligament occurs during pregnancy as a result of pregnancy hormones that stretches the ligaments which support the breasts. Wearing a well-fitting bra during pregnancy may reduce sagging.

It is a believe that many people detest seeing a mother publicly breastfeeding but research has shown otherwise. The more the exposure of the public seeing a breastfeeding mum, the more acceptable it is and the more the public see it as normal. Therefore, a pregnant woman in most countries cannot be accused legally of indecent exposure as the law protects them.

Some women may believe that their breast milk are not adequate but ordinarily commencing early breastfeeding at frequent intervals will dismiss this perception. “Almost all women are physically able to breastfeed,” Bridget Halnan

Equally a wrong perception is that a breastfeeding mother should not have sex or it may reduce libido. This is not true. Occasional dryness may be experienced but with longer foreplay, this may be surmounted.

Breastfeeding is said to be painful to the mother, but is the wrong positioning that causes pain, this is solved by training on the appropriate positioning of the baby.

The shape of the nipple doesn’t have any effect on the baby. A flat or inverted nipple is not a deterrent to breastfeeding. The babies can easily manipulate the various nipple shapes to suit their mouth.

Breastfeeding prevents the various ailments and conserve resources needed to manage such ailment thereby reducing the budget to health sector.

Breastfeeding conserves the budget of a nation that supplement formula milk and indeed divert such resources into other areas of the economy.

Health of the children will improve.

The children will grow into a healthy adult in both mental and physical status.

Healthy adults will develop into good citizens.

Good citizens will transform into good leaders and good followers thereby reducing social tensions and social misfit.

Good leaders will manage healthy nation.

Healthy nations will transform into a prosperous world.

A prosperous world will indeed transform into an improved humanity.

All of these, inter alia, is from practicing the policy of breastfeeding, a naturally endowed practice that serves as a tool or key to human health as one of the goals of sustainable development initiative of the United Nation.

Nations must therefore support and maintain the policy of breastfeeding as to achieving one of the goals of sustainable development.

I congratulate all mothers who breastfeed and encourage those who have altered perception on breastfeeding, to change their views and those who have successfully practiced breastfeeding to preach the gospels universally.

Professor A. A. Bamigboye is the Director Louismed Hospital and Professor of O and G, University of Medical Sciences, Ondo


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