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Breastfeeding is the process where infants are fed with milk directly from their mothers’ breast. Breast milk is the most appropriate and nourishing food as it contains all the required nutrients in the rightful proportions. The benefits of breastfeeding are physical, emotional and economical. For infants to survive, grow healthy and develop properly, they require the right proportion of nutrients. Breast milk is very rich in nutrients such as fats, sugar, water and protein which the baby requires for optimal growth and development from 0-6 months of age.

Exclusive breastfeeding

This is an ideal practice whereby infants are given only breast milk from the period of 0-6 months and after which complementary food sets in alongside with continuous breastfeeding.

When a mother exclusively breastfeeds her child, she is directly providing her child with the adequate nutrient need for optimal growth and development. Also, when a child is exclusively breastfed, their immune system is strengthened, enabling it to fight against life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhea amongst other diseases. Reports indicate that babies who are not exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life are 15 times most likely to go down with different kinds of infections. According to WHO, around 220,000 children could be saved every year with exclusive breastfeeding and that is why WHO and UNICEF recommend that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six(6) months of life to achieve optimal growth and development and after six(6) months when breast milk alone cannot meet the nutritional requirement of infant due to rapid growth and development, the infant should be introduced to nutritionally adequate and save complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or above.

Colostrum

In less than one hour after birth, the first milk that is being produced is called colostrum. Colostrum is a nutrient rich milk which contains many protective properties including antibacterial and immune system boosting substances that aren’t available in infant formula. Therefore, mothers should ensure that their infant consumes this first milk (colostrum) which is health beneficial for them.

Some good reasons for exclusive breastfeeding from 0-6 months include:

Breast milk contains adequate nutrients which the baby needs in adequate proportion from 0-6 months of age.
Breastfed infants have high immunity to diseases and infections.
Breast feeding infants exclusively from 0-6 months and introducing adequate and safe complementary food with continued breastfeeding from 6 months -2 years of age reduces the rate of morbidity and mortality.
Breastfeeding infants create a bond between mother and child and this bond help in the development of the infant.
Exclusive breast feeding reduces the chances of infant over weight due to the nutrients are in the rightful proportion.
Practice exclusive breastfeeding from 0-6 months, introduce adequate and safe complementary diet from 6 months to 2 years of age while continuing breastfeeding is the recommended means of achieving a healthy growth and development in infants.

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