A Consultant Paediatrician, Dr. Abdurrazzaq Alege, has urged nursing mothers to ensure babies spend a minimum of 15 minutes sucking one breast before being switched to the other breast.
According to him, doing this will help to ensure the baby gets the necessary nutrients needed for optimal growth and development.
He explained that while some children get satisfied after 15 minutes of feeding, the mother should offer the second breast and not assume the baby is satisfied until the infant refuses the breast.
The paediatrician further explained further:
“The essence of having to stay that long on the breast is to allow the child to get the necessary nutrients, otherwise, if you put the child to breastfeed for less than five minutes, basically what the child will get is just water to quench thirst. The child may not grow because he is not taking what is necessary for optimal development.”
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise in an interview, the paediatrician who works at the Federal Medical Centre, Katsina, Nephrology Division, explained that breast milk is divided into two parts, the foremilk and hindmilk.
He noted that when a child is being breastfed, the first thing that comes out is the foremilk which contains just water, adding that the hindmilk which contains the nutrients that the child needs come later.
The expert noted:
“70 per cent of the breast milk is water. We always tell new mothers that when engaging in exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months; the child is not expected to take a single drop of water because we know that 70 per cent of the breastmilk is water.
So even if you think the child is thirsty, give breast milk. However, It is the hindmilk that comes later that contains the nutrients the child will use like, proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins.
The major content is protein because it is the one that is necessary to build the body of the baby. What the child needs at that stage is bodybuilding to grow.”
He noted that nursing mothers also benefit from spending longer time feeding the child.
“The first benefit is is what we call bonding. When the child is breastfeeding, the child will be looking at the mother’s face. It allows and encourages compassion. It helps to build an emotional attachment between the mother and the child.”
He explained that the bonding time can also help in detecting jaundice.
“If you try to open the eyes of a newborn, it is usually difficult. Part of the problems with newborns is jaundice. It starts in the eyes.
The white parts start to get yellow and when we want to check, it is usually difficult because when you try to open the eye, the child will forcefully close it.
But the first person to tell about jaundice is usually the mother because anytime the child is breastfeeding, he is looking at the mother’s face so in a way, it helps in detecting jaundice.”
The paediatrician explained further that another benefit of long breastfeeding is that it allows good contraction of the womb, in the first few weeks for the newly delivered mothers.
“Good breastfeeding and long breastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding, allow the womb to get back to shape.
A mother that is giving water and other things to the baby will not give so much time to breastfeeding and this will not allow her uterus, the womb to contract well and get back to shape.”
According to him, breastfeeding mothers will feel uterine contraction each time the child is feeding, adding that some of them will feel like they are in labour when the uterus is contracting and trying to get back to normal. He said:
“So proper breastfeeding allows a good return to the pre-pregnancy abdominal state, which is the size of the abdomen before pregnancy.”
According to the World Health Organisation, “Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival.”
The WHO, however, noted that nearly two out of three infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months — a rate that has not improved in two decades.
“Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies that help protect against many common childhood illnesses.
“Breast milk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life.
“Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life.
“Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers,”
the global health agency said.