Health experts indicate that breastfeeding—the feeding of babies and young children with milk from a woman’s breast—gives babies the best start in life.
They also indicate that it comes with a host of benefits for the mother.
As such, they advocate that breastfeeding should start within the first hour of a baby’s life and continue as often and as much as the baby wants up to two years.
Nevertheless, when it comes to breastfeeding in public, some mothers are more comfortable than others, even though breastfeeding should ideally take place anywhere and anytime because apart from filling the babies’ stomach it also helps them sleep and makes them comfortable.
Adijah Aluba from Mpingu in Lilongwe said in an interview last week that she breastfeeds her month-old baby boy anywhere and anytime because she wants him to be happy and comfortable.
“Why should he go hungry when I can give him breast milk?” she wondered.
Similarly, her sister Faida Aluba said she does not see any problem breastfeeding her three-month-old baby girl, Masyatu, in public. For her, seeing her daughter growing up healthy and disease-free is what matters most.
But while the sisters consider it all right to breastfeed in public, some women say they can never do that, unless they cover themselves.
However, health practitioners argue that anxiety about breastfeeding in public should not be a barrier to breastfeeding in general, considering its beneficial of it for both the mother and the baby.
Ministry of Health and Population spokesperson Joshua Malango also agreed, stating that breastfeeding is complete food for the child as it contains all the nutrients and water for proper growth and development.
“Breast milk also protects the child from diseases. Colostrum, the first milk that comes out when the baby is born, has antibodies that fight against infections such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and measles.
“Apart from that, if a child is sick, breast milk helps the baby to recover fast from the illness,” he said.
Malango also stated that breastfeeding promotes emotional bonding between mother and baby. It is said that during breastfeeding, beneficial hormones are released into the mother’s body, helping to strengthen the maternal bond. This is so because holding the child to their breast provides mothers with a more powerful psychological experience than carrying the foetus inside her uterus.
Another important factor, according to him, is that breastfeeding, also known as nursing, is a method of family planning, and, therefore, helps space children, but is also the cheapest method of feeding a baby as there is no need to buy things like formula, firewood or electricity to boil water for instance.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), a specialised agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health, recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
But even though exclusive breastfeeding is recommended, it should not come as a burden as Lucy Banda, also from Mpingu in Lilongwe rural shared.
She explained that her husband, who works in the health sector, instructed her to breastfeed her child 12 times a day. “I would sometimes get tired because he made sure that I adhered to the order. I did my best to breastfeed 12 times every day, and if I slackened, then I would breastfeed for eight or 10 times that day. By six months, my child was weighing 11 kilogrammes,” explained the young woman, adding that she always had to cover herself when breastfeeding in public.