As the world celebrates breastfeeding week from August 1–7, a number of women are still unconvinced of the need to exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least six months.
They have also disagreed that babies fed exclusively with breast milk are more intelligent.
Nutritionists and other experts hold the strong view that exclusive breastfeeding is beneficial to babies, as it guards them against diseases and even makes them more intelligent.
But in separate interviews in parts of Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, some mothers relayed their experiences, insisting that mothers should not be forced to breastfeed their babies.
They contended that there could be circumstances where exclusive breastfeeding would never be applicable or work.
Madam Maria Akpan has five children and lives in the Mbukpa community in Calabar South LGA.
“My first son did not like to suck my breast. He only sucked for about one month.
“Since he did not like to suck breast milk, I fed him other quality natural foods as well as baby formula. He was never sick. Today he is about 20 years old, very healthy, and intelligent,” she said.
She said she is presently taking care of a two-month-old baby whose mother died upon delivery in the hospital.
“In such a situation, how can the baby be exclusively fed with its mother’s milk? The grandmother is alive but cannot produce breast milk,” she added.
Maria asked, ‘Even if the mother of the baby was alive, since she suffered from breast cancer, which took her life, how would she have fed the baby?”
Another respondent, Evelyn Samuel, in her late 30s and a mother of two, said she never sucked her mother’s breast and does not have a history of sickness.
She said she gave birth to one of her two children through a Caesarian Section, or CS, and the baby did not like to suck her breast.
“That baby today has been very outstanding academically. So I disagree that children who do not suck breasts are easily susceptible to health issues and are not intelligent.
“Even at some maternity centers, some midwives and nurses would even secretly advise nursing mothers to give water to the babies to drink and also introduce other natural foods to them,” she claimed.
At a south-south/southeast workshop to flag off the breastfeeding week celebration, two officials of UNICEF, Dr. Ijeoma Onuoha Ogwe, communications officer, and Mrs. Ngozi Onuora, nutrition specialist, who work for the UNICEF field office in Enugu State, harped on the importance and benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and the zero water campaign.
They disclosed that the theme for 2023 World Breastfeeding Week is “Enabling breastfeeding: making a difference for working parents”.
The nutrition experts enumerated arrays of benefits derivable from exclusive breastfeeding, maintaining that the baby can hardly be attacked by ailments and will be very intelligent.
“Early breastfeeding does prevent over 37 percent of child deaths and protects against ailments.
“Breast milk acts as the first immunization for new-born babies and helps, too, to cleanse both the mother's and the child’s systems.”