Breastmilk: The Liquid gold for every child’s perfect life

Aber Rachael (L) and Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima (R)

Interestingly, we cannot talk about breast milk without talking about breastfeeding. Looking at this from the oldest book ever known, the Bible. In Exodus 2:7,9- Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her ‘Take this baby and nurse him for me and I will pay thee, so the woman took the baby and nursed him.

According to the original Hebrew, the English “nurse” as used in the scriptures above is the word Yaw-nak’ which translates to suckle/to give milk or to give suck. This exactly means breastfeeding as it is widely used now. These events were recorded way back and with this, we can attest that breastfeeding is an ancient and yet powerful tool to a nurturing mother. It is both divine and scientific that these babies be breastfed as much as possible because of the profound benefits it has to the baby and to the mother.

Evidence shows that breast milk is an unbeatable food that alone meets the requirements of babies up to 6 months of age. Exclusively breastfed infants tend to have a satisfactory nutritional status. But the advantages of breastfeeding go beyond nutrition and are unanimously defended by all health establishments. Some of the benefits of breast milk include;

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Breastmilk has the right amount of food nutrients at each growth stage of the baby as required and is also better absorbed by the baby’s body system. It has a component called Myo-inositol which is very crucial for neural connection or brain development of the infant.

Recent studies suggest that breastmilk contains carotenoids such as lutein and Zeaxanthin which improve macular pigment density and has a protective antioxidant effect on the eye. It also has antibodies from the mother which protect the infant from infections mostly concentrated in Colostrum and thereafter throughout the breastfeeding period. Colostrum is the first thick yellowish milk that a mother produces. It has been found to have a high level of antibodies and secretory Immunoglobulin A (SIgA) which coats the infant’s intestines and preventive entry of germs. That’s why every baby must suck that first milk flow.

Breastmilk is also sterile and pure, and needs no additional preparation or adjustment, as this reduces the risks of other infections.

The content, volume and concentration of breastmilk also change over time for the best interest of the baby. Colostrum has SIgA because it is best required at the start as explained above. Breast milk in the evening is also said to contain some serotonin which helps the baby to sleep. Researchers also believe that when a baby is unwell sends a cue to the mother’s body to produce more milk with specific antibodies. Likewise, when a mother is exposed to any infection, the antibodies produced are also served to the baby through breastfeeding. This is amazing, and no doubt breastmilk is at times called “The liquid gold”.

All women must breastfeed their children unless advised otherwise by their healthcare providers with a good reason. And this is done to the mother’s and baby’s benefit with the risk and benefit analysis done objectively to come up with such a decision.

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Conclusively, no child deserves to be left out. Well, though we emphasize breastfeeding, we also recognize that certain women are unable to exactly “breastfeed” all the time so breastmilk expression is an option for such an individual just so this baby doesn’t miss out on the Liquid Gold, especially for the first six months as guided by World Health Organization.

Breastfeeding should be done exclusively for the first 6 months then with other foods for the next 1-2 years. A woman can however breastfeed her child for as long as she wants though except for the women Living with HIV who must stop at 12 months.

The authors are; Aber Rachael, a BSc Midwife and researcher working with TASO-Entebbe and
Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima; a BSc Nurse, MSN-Midwife and a Women’s Health Specialist

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