How exclusive breastfeeding protects children from malaria —Expert

A nutrition expert, Dr Kadijat Alarape, has said that breastfeeding exclusively for six months ensures a baby is healthy and protected from malaria.

Alarape, a nutritionist with the Oyo State Primary Healthcare Board who spoke at a quarterly media engagement on infant and young child feeding practices in Ibadan said breast milk contains substances that boost the baby’s immunity to many infections, including malaria.

She stated that breastmilk contains colostrum, the baby’s first vaccine against many diseases, including diarrhoea, and so it should be commenced before 30 minutes of birth on the delivery couch.

Alarape declared, “The immunity of a child that is exclusively breastfeed is very high, and so the child is less likely to come down with infections like malaria in general.

“My two children I did exclusive breastfeeding for I did not treat them for malaria throughout that period, This was even before having the knowledge that breastmilk confers some protection on the child.

“Even if there is diarrhoea, which could be as a result of microorganisms like E coli, the child is better able to combat that infection. Mothers living with HIV can also breastfeed their babies exclusively; however, such a mother must continue to take the antiretroviral drug.”

Dr Alarape declared that commencement of breastfeeding within 30 minutes of birth also ensures the placenta is expelled quickly and controls excessive bleeding.

She, however, stated that breastmilk contains a lot of water and as such mothers should not give water.

She added that a baby should be made to feed both on the fore and the hind milk, adding, “a child should be fed breastmilk on-demand and at least 12 times within 24 hours.”

Mrs Taibat Oduneye, also a nutritionist at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, said prevention of malaria in pregnant women over time passes some protection on their babies against malaria provided such a children are not exposed to mosquito bites.

State coordinator, Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria, Mr Oluwasegun Adio, stated that the quarterly media engagement was to build capacity of the media on infant and young child feeding practices to boost the quality of information they feed their audience on nutrition.

Earlier, Oyo State nutrition officer, Mrs Omolara Oladeji, put breastfeeding rate in the state at 49.5 per cent, adding that malnutrition is a pandemic in the state given the number of children’s data indicated to be either stunted, underweight or underfed.

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