World Breastfeeding Week: Building Stronger Families Through Healthier Infants

At Bethany, our mission is family.

Charles Wundengba

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We help strengthen families, preserve families, build families, and help families. Because we believe family changes everything.

The birth of a newborn gives assurance that a family would be sustained. It gives hope for a brighter unseen future. But that baby must be fed and must remain nourished to be able to remain healthy for the sustenance of the family. The World Breastfeeding week reminds us of the need to maintain healthy breastfeeding practices for healthier children, leading to stronger and healthy families.

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) in 2017/2018, it was estimated that, in Ghana, 52% of newborns are breastfed within the first 1 hour of birth and 43% of infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed. But the ambitious Ghana Health Services targets that by 2030, 70% of newborns will be breastfed in the first hour and 70% of infants will have exclusive breastfeeding, 80% at one year, and 60% at two years. This will go a long way to improve the health of newborns and extend to the overall success of families.

The World Health Organisation revealed that failure to breastfeed amounts to real costs in human life, quality of life and national economic outcomes. In Ghana, Bethany addresses the issues that can cause the child to be separated from their family in the first place. So we provide breastfeeding support. This support makes caring for a baby affordable and brings mental, physical, and emotional health benefits to the baby, mom, and through her, to the whole family. We provide counselling and health services for these women so they can keep themselves healthy and strong, and in turn, do the same for their children.

Early initiation of breastfeeding has several health benefits including the increased ability of the immune system to resist infections, reduction in the risk of diarrhea, and increased survival rate of children. According to research by Alive & Thrieve in Ghana, they found that optimal breastfeeding practices in Ghana have the potential to save 3,774 children’s lives and prevent 302 maternal deaths from cancers and type II diabetes It could also save over US$5.8 million in health system treatment costs related to inadequate breastfeeding and generate over US$594 million for the economy by increasing children’s cognitive capacity and preventing premature mortality and reducing the risk of maternal mortality.

Breastfeeding is cost-effective and it can be afforded by all. A mother does not need to take out money from her pocket in order to be able to breastfeed her newborn. Aside from medical reasons, women naturally produce this nutritious milk which has been proven to protect children from illnesses and infant mortality.

At Bethany, we provide support and education for vulnerable pregnant and nursing mothers. Breastfeeding is a source of food that is always available and never runs out. Breastmilk is the answer to the baby’s nutritional needs since it is naturally made exclusively for the baby. The more a mother breastfeeds, the higher the milk production, so a nutritional meal is always available when the baby is hungry. It is hygienic, and safe and provides all the nutrients a baby needs. It boosts a child's immunity while the nearness of the act (breastfeeding) helps the child calm down, sleep and be calmed. This also reduces the stress on mothers and gives them time and opportunity to attend to other duties.

The breastmilk changes in volume and composition according to the time of day, nursing frequency, and age of the baby to promote healthy growth. Breast milk is the perfect food for a baby.

Breastfeeding strengthens the emotional bond between mother and child, a crucial link that helps keep families together.

For breastfeeding mothers, exclusive breastfeeding of the baby for the first six months could delay ovulation, serving as a natural birth control method during the early months of birth. It helps overcome post-partum depression and reduces the risk of breast cancer and other health complications that may intervene with a mother’s loving commitment of taking care of her family.

Bethany’s services focus on the best interest of the child and with this vision in mind provides breastfeeding classes for women and partners to raise awareness on the importance of early initiation of breastfeeding, and supports mothers through the process and as they introduce complementary feeding. Educates their partners to ensure their commitment and support on breastfeeding to promote infant and women's health. Optimal breastfeeding practices: that is, early initiation within the first hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and appropriate complementary feeding with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years or beyond - are among the most effective interventions to protect children from common causes of death, including complications from prematurity, newborn infections, pneumonia, and diarrhoea. With the vision of strengthening family as our guiding light, Bethany’s services focus on the best interest of the child and the family as a whole. Because stronger families are the foundation of a better world.

Bethany will continue meeting mothers, children, and families wherever they are, to walk alongside them as we work to change the world through family.