Is Exclusive Breastfeeding an Attainable Goal?
The World Health Organization recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding and at least two years of continued breastfeeding when table foods and drinks are introduced at approximately six months. Exclusive breastfeeding means that the infant consumes nothing but human milk. No water, tea, formula, milks or juices of plant or animal origin, baby food, table food, ... no solids or liquids of any kind. Nothing but human milk. The reason behind this recommendation is that prior to about six months of age, the infant gut can permit the direct entrance of foreign substances into the infant's blood stream, leaving the infant more susceptible to illness, allergy, and disease. The "leakiness" of the infant gut during those six months is, however, useful and biologicaly normal: it lets large-sized components of human milk pass through, as they are meant to do.
Funded by USAID from 1996 to 2006, the Linkages Project's mandate was demonstrating that exclusive breastfeeding for six months is, in fact, an achievable goal. The project worked to improve breastfeeding practices in many countries, and by doing so 1) increased child survival, growth, and development; 2) increased child spacing; 3) improved maternal and reproductive health; and 4) reduced maternal-infant transmission of HIV by helping mothers make more informed decisions about infant feeding. The project also documented community programs that were successful. The Linkages Project's website (http://www.linkagesproject.org/) provides a wealth of information about how to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates through three approaches: Global Technical Leadership, Country Programs, and Mainstreaming. The conclusion of the project is that exclusive breastfeeding is an attainable goal with measurable improvement in maternal and child health.
Cynthia Good Mojab
Director, LifeCircle Counseling and Consulting, LLC (www.lifecirclecc.com)