Exclusive breastfeeding is giving of no other food or drink – not even water – except breast milk to new born babies for the first 6 months of their life.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says exclusive breastfeeding helps to achieve optimal growth, development and health of the baby, reducing neonatal mortality.

Apart from the nutritional value, there are other psychological benefits. One of such is bonding.

However, the nature of our society in Nigeria makes exclusive breastfeeding a big task for nursing mothers, forcing them to introduce baby food earlier than the recommended 6 months.

Some other women, who want to keep their shapes even when they have the whole time in the world to practice exclusive breastfeeding, say meeting the demand of exclusive breastfeeding makes their breast sag.

There is a way out for any woman that wants to uphold exclusive breastfeeding for their children, a wellness coach and nutritionist, Lauren Osewezina says.

All About Breast Milk

ComponentMean value for mature breast milk (per 100mL)
Energy (kJ)280
Energy (kcal)67
Protein (g)1.3
Fat (g)

4.2

Carbohydrate (g) 7.0
Sodium (mg) 15
Calcium (mg)35
Phosphorus (mg)15
Iron (mcg)76
Vitamin A (mcg)60
Vitamin C (mg)3.8
Vitamin D (mcg)0.01

It also contains important non-nutritional components, such as antimicrobial factors, digestive enzymes, hormones that boost the immune system and other growth factors.

All these nutrients, Mrs Osewezina said, help to fortify a child from diseases.

Expressing Breast Milk

To make sure that the new born gets these nutrients the mother must make conscious effort to make the milk available by expressing breast milk before she leaves for work.

Expressed milk that has little bacteria can last for six to eight hours if room temperature remains cool.

Breastmilk expressing machine

A mother can refrigerate breast milk for three to five days and freeze it to keep it fresh.

This makes it possible for the child to have milk anytime he/she wants it.

Observing Child's Feeding Time

A healthy adult has an amount of time he can stay before he becomes hungry and the Wellness Coach says it applies to children too.

“From my observation with my children, I have been able to find out that children have specific time they call for breast milk, from the day a woman gives birth to them till they stop breastfeeding. This is an order that God put to make it easier for women to feed their child considering the fact that God knows women will also need time to work.

"Some women have formed the habit of sticking their breast into a child’s mouth each time he/she cries.

"Some do not feed the child enough milk each time they breastfeed and the child calls for more in few minutes.

"The breast milk is divided into different contents, if I must use that word. The first set of milk that comes out is water (very light) and this will run for some time before the real milk will begin to come out.

"But some women will feed their child from one breast for few minutes and then turn to the other breast and also feed the child from that one. When they do this, they end up giving the child water from breast-1 and water from breast-2. In few minutes the child will be hungry again because it did not really get breast milk,” she explained.

She suggested that women should always ensure that they feed the child till the breast is emptied (the swollen breast goes down) by the child and that if the child still wants more, the mother can then feed the baby from the other breast.

“In the next session of breastfeeding, the mother should start from the second breast that the child did not suck so much from before.

“If a child is well fed, just like an adult, it will take a specific number of minutes or hours for the child to be hungry again. A mother will have to take note of the time the child calls for breast milk.

“Note: That the child is crying does not mean he/she needs breast milk. It could be that there is heat, that the diaper is wet and the child is no longer comfortable and some other factors,’ she said.

According to her, a child’s breast milk demand intervals begins to increase as the child gets older and the mother is also required to give attention to this.

"Some children begin with a 30 minutes interval and then moves to one hour and sometimes to one hour 30 minutes. Sometimes when the child wants to develop a certain tendency, like seating for instance, the sucking period tends to drop again to a lower interval and that is because the child needs enough energy and nutrient to pass that stage," she added.

If mothers will observe these few things, she stressed, they will find that exclusive breastfeeding is easier than they think.