Breastfeeding – The Environmentally Friendly and Ideal Method of Infant Feeding
Breastfeeding has been proven scientifically to offer many health benefits for infants and mothers, as well as potential economic and environmental benefits for communities. The current breastfeeding rate in Nigeria has remained low and diarrhoea has remained the second biggest killer of children in Nigeria owing to consumption of contaminated water and unhygienic practices in food preparation. This review aims to provide a broad overview of existing findings on breastfeeding, highlighting its benefits, its role in maternal and child health; and also identify factors across several dimensions that influence breastfeeding outcomes. The review was designed to identify studies on breastfeeding, prelacteal feeding, infant formula feeding and diarrhoea diseases. Results show that in low and middle-income countries, about half of all diarrhoea episodes and a third of respiratory infections could be avoided by breastfeeding. However, millions of children are failing to receive the full benefits provided by breastfeeding. Infant formula production and consumption is one of the major threats to breastfeeding and to the environment. Mothers go for the alternative formula feeding of artificial baby milk which has been implicated in the death of one and a half million babies every year and ill health. Breastfeeding produces zero waste in comparison to infant formula. In contrast to breastmilk, artificial baby milk production pollutes the land, air, and water and uses up natural resources. Currently, breastfeeding promotion focuses on encouraging women to breastfeed without adequate antenatal education and counselling, supportive environment at home and workplaces. In conclusion, breastmilk remains the only readily available, safe and environmentally friendly source of infant feeding especially for the first six months of infant life. It is recommended that in promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding at the level of family, community and workplace; there must be political will and commitment by the government. The aggressive marketing of infant formula must also be controlled from advertisement to sales and regulations enforced.