Monday, 14 October 2013

by Aisya Abu Bakar, Megan Ong Yin-Li, Yap Xin Wen, Class of 2013, Junior 2 Cempaka

It all starts with babies. Being on the very beginning of the growth timeline, it's crucial to ensure that babies are being nurtured the right way, and one of the best ways to nurture a newborn is through breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding brings substantial health and social benefits to mothers and babies alike. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that 90 percent of mothers that breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months are able to prevent 1,000 infant deaths! Relying on breast milk also allows families to reduce expenditure on formula milk and healthcare, as formula milk is expensive and is unable to provide adequate protection from illness. 

Apart from the social benefits, breastfeeding can also bring important health benefits. Breastfeeding mothers are able to provide nutrients and antibodies that cannot be found or replicated in formula milk. These nutrients and antibodies reduce the likelihood of diarrhea, pneumonia, type-1 diabetes, leukemia and atopic dermatitis. Other than that, mothers are also able to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and post-pregnancy depression towards themselves. Breastfeeding creates an emotional bond between the baby and the mother due to the precious time they spend together. This ultimately nurtures the babies’ mental health. 

However, according to the Borneo Post, as of August 2012, the percentage of Malaysian babies that are exclusively breastfed up to six months is only a measly 23.7 percent. France Begin, a UNICEF nutrition advisor for East Asia and the Pacific, states that the falling rates of breastfeeding across East Asia are alarming. Alongside Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and China join the group of East Asian countries that have relatively low rates of breastfeeding, with five percent, 20 percent and 28 percent respectively.

There are several possible reasons that prevent some mothers from breastfeeding. A small percentage of mothers are not able to produce enough milk for their babies. This happens because mothers do not breastfeed within the first hour of birth and by forcing themselves to breastfeed, their breasts experience pain and discomfort. Other than that, breast milk may even be toxic for babies if mothers consume harmful substances during pregnancy such as alcohol and drugs.

Having said that, there is still a majority of mothers who choose not to breastfeed their babies. One of the reasons this happens is because of the aggressive advertising of formula milk. Formula milk companies partner with hospitals to distribute free samples of formula milk, making mothers more inclined to continue feeding their babies with formula milk as they were encouraged by the hospital. Another reason is because of the embarrassment and harassment mothers feel when breastfeeding in public. It is considered taboo to even subtly breastfeed due to the cultures and traditions mothers are brought up with. 

Along with that, mothers find it difficult to juggle and maintain the duties of being a breastfeeding mother and a working mother. On top of the lack of time to breastfeed their babies, working mothers may lack the support needed from their family members. This encourages mothers to use bottle-feeding as an alternative because feeding from the bottle is convenient, less painful, requires less effort and time, and offers a chance for fathers to bond with the baby. However, breastfeeding is less time consuming than mothers think it is. By breastfeeding, mothers do not have to sterilize the bottle and other equipments needed to prepare formula milk for the baby.

Although breastfeeding poses certain disadvantages, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks drastically. Among its great merits are its ability to reduce the risk of certain illnesses, save expenditure and nurture the emotional bond between a mother and her child. With all the evident advantages, it is still puzzling to know that mothers are still not breastfeeding their children. Therefore, it is important to instill good breastfeeding habits in mothers as it produces positive long-term effects on their children in the future through both mental and physical development.

by Aisya 21:44 14 comments | in , , , ,


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