Only 43 percent of babies born in Ghana are breastfed exclusively for six months, Dr. Amma Benin, Head of the Pediatrics Department at the International Maritime Hospital (IMAH) has revealed.
He said the current exclusive breastfeeding rate showed a significant drop from 52 percent in 2014, and 63 percent in 2008 to just 43 percent as of 2021.
Dr Benin said this when she spoke on the theme; “Addressing the health needs of children, adolescents, and women, a sure way to build a healthy society” at the 16th Ghana News Agency-Tema Stakeholders Engagement.
The Stakeholder Engagement is a progressive media caucus platform rolled out for state and non-state actors to address national issues and topical issues.
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Dr Benin said the figure was worrying as it was way below the target of 70 percent exclusive breastfeeding by 2030; stressing that Ghana’s breastfeeding data also showed that only 52 percent of newborns were breastfed within one hour of birth far below the projected target rate of 70 percent by 2030.
Dr. Benin, therefore, urged health personnel to initiate breastfeeding within the first hour as the statistics was an indication that some of them were not doing what was expected.
She also urged mothers to do their best to stick to exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life while advising relatives and friends of nursing mothers to give them the support and encouragement to exclusively breastfeed their babies.
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“Exclusive breastfeeding is central to survival, health, and well-being of children and the nation at large,” she said.
She identified some of the health benefits of breastfeeding as providing the baby with the ideal nutrition to support his or her growth and development.
The Pediatrician said breastmilk also known as ‘white gold’ was dynamic and changes in nature and constituents to meet the nutritional needs of the growing baby, adding that it also contained antibodies from the mother that protects the baby against common infections in the environment.
Breastmilk, she noted was readily available, always at the right temperature, had no need to reheat, easily digested, and came at no added cost to the family budget.
On the contrary, Dr. Benin noted that formula-fed babies stood the risk of being fed with over-diluted milk, leading to a malnutrition baby, formula must be correctly prepared with clean water.
“If the water being used to prepare the infant formula is contaminated in any way, the baby will end up with diarrhea and other infections,” she stressed.
She noted that in 2016, a Lancet series estimated that 823,000 deaths of children under five years could have been prevented every year through optimal breastfeeding practices.
Dr. Benin added that optimal breastfeeding practices reduced hospitalization among children from diarrhea, respiratory infections, and malnutrition.