57% of babies denied exclusive breastfeeding suffer obesity, low intellect

Accra, Sept. 02, GNA – More than half of all babies denied exclusive breastfeeding for six months suffer obesity and low intellect in later years

Fifty-seven (57) per cent of babies in the country are at risk of obesity at adolescent stage and also low intelligence scores for not undergoing exclusive breastfeeding, Mrs Veronica Quartey, Deputy Director, Nutrition, Ghana Health Service, has disclosed.

Mrs Quartey said that currently, about forty-three (43) per cent of infants under six months were exclusively breastfed.

In an interview with the Ghana News Agency to explain the significance of exclusive breastfeeding, she stated that exclusive breastfeeding provided total nutrition, reduced the risk of obesity in adolescents as well as later in life and also increased intelligence.

On the other hand, Mrs Quartey said that infants under six months who did not undergo exclusive breastfeeding may suffer low intelligence scores, leading to school dropout.

She stressed that children dropping out of school would eventually cause low productivity in the nation if they did not achieve their full potential for education.

The Deputy Director informed that non-exclusive breastfeeding infants might grow into adolescents with non-communicable diseases which could lead to high health costs for families and the nation.

“Non-exclusive breastfeeding may lead to low intelligence scores, may lead to school drop out if children are struggling to learn, and low productivity of a nation if children do not achieve their full potential for education; increase risk of non-communicable diseases which could lead to high health costs for family and nation,” she told GNA.

She was however emphatic that “a child who is exclusively breastfed is more likely to grow and develop better than a child who is not breastfed or given mixed feeding. Children who are not exclusively breastfed often experience poor growth, especially if what is given is not nutritionally adequate or not prepared hygienically.”

Mrs Quartey insisted that a baby that is not breastfed but given mixed feeding may experience frequent bouts of diarrhoea and other infections and may not grow well.

“Exclusive breasted children are lower risk of becoming ill or being hospitalized or even dying during infancy than the child who is not exclusively breastfed. In the long term, exclusively breastfed children have higher IQ, are less likely to develop overweight, obesity or type 2 diabetes later in life”, she announced.

Addressing the issue of career women who are unable to exclusively breastfeed as a result of institutional pressures, she recommended to employers and institutions in the country help the staff by enforcing the current provisions for maternity leave and supporting it with annual leave.

“Extend maternity leave with salary adjustments if agreeable with staff,” she further recommended to both institutions and career women.

She again called for paternity leave for the fathers to also have some ample time to support their wives at home, as this would ease the pressure on the breastfeeding mothers to carry out the six-month exclusive breastfeeding.

She appealed to institutions to discuss flexible work times with their staff including coming to work late and closing late or vice versa.

She added that there should be a creation of friendly breastfeeding spaces like breast milk expression rooms, and crèches in institutions to accommodate nursing mothers.

Touching on the resolution to cover 57 per cent of the non-exclusive breastfeeding infants in the country, she suggested that all women, especially nursing mothers be supported throughout the breastfeeding journey, starting from pregnancy with education on the importance of breastfeeding till they finally deliver.

She added that health workers should immediately after delivery support mothers to put the baby to the breast and initiate breastfeeding within the first hour after birth.

“Before mothers are discharged from the hospital, they should be linked to community health workers for continuous support for the mother. Fathers, mothers-in-law and community members should all be educated on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and the need to support mothers to do it exclusively for six months,” she recommended.

She further charged the authorities to ensure that the law that regulated the marketing of breast milk substitutes was enforced.

Source: Ghana News Agency