The Ministry of Public Health is committed to improving the health of the Afghan population and reducing infant mortality.
Research has shown that babies who are fed with their mother’s milk are much healthier than babies who are fed formula. A mother’s milk is the ideal food for babies. It provides a perfect nutritional balance, containing proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and iron to help the baby grow. It also protects infants against infection.
How long should mothers feed naturally for?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that mothers should feed their infants only natural milk for the first six months of his or her life. Mothers can continue feeding their babies natural milk as solid foods are introduced up to the age of two years or beyond.
Feeding: when and how often?
It is recommended that mothers should feed babies their milk within the first hour of the infant’s life. The baby should receive no other food – not even water. Newborns get hungry every two to three hours but as they get older and consume more milk at each feed they need feeding less often. The important thing is to feed them when they get hungry. Mothers who feed their children with their milk should make sure that they themselves eat enough food and get plenty of rest.
What are the benefits of natural feeding?
Natural feeding offers both short- and long-term benefits to mother and child. Babies’ immune systems take time to develop. Until they can develop their own antibodies, babies can get protection from the antibodies in their mother’s milk. The milk provided perfectly matches the baby’s needs and changes in composition as the baby grows. It is also free, convenient and easy for the child to digest.
Studies show that children who have been exclusively natural fed are less likely to suffer from allergies and infections. As they get older natural fed children are less likely to develop diabetes or suffer from obesity. Mothers who feed their children naturally are less likely to develop certain types of cancers. Feeding in this way also encourages mother and baby to bond.
What should mothers do if they find natural feeding difficult?
Natural feeding may be uncomfortable at first but most problems encountered are temporary. Mothers who are concerned that their baby is not attached or feeding properly should seek advice from their midwife.
Through no fault of their own, some women are unable to produce milk for breastfeeding. These mothers should ask their doctor for advice on how to keep their baby healthy and for directions on how to correctly use baby formula.
In Kabul, Malalai hospital belongs to the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, which offers support for mothers learning how to feed their newborns. Health workers intend to implement the initiative in other hospitals round the country.