“Breastmilk provides all the energy and nutrients the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one-third during the second year of life,” she said.
“Babies who are breastfed for the first six months, without any formula, have their minds developing properly, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and fewer bouts of diarrhoea.”
Dr Benin was speaking on the topic: “Addressing the health needs of children, adolescents, and women – a sure way to building a healthy society,” at a stakeholders engagement organised by the Tema Regional Office of the Ghana News Agency.
She said exclusive breastfeeding was one of the two important public health initiatives aimed at reducing child mortality and mobility.
The second initiative is childhood immunization.
she said there was the need to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Ghana, which currently stood at 43 per cent, a situation she described as worrying.
Dr Benin said breastmilk was the ideal food for infants, as it was safe, clean, and contained antibodies that helped protect the child against many common childhood illnesses and respiratory allergies, with a 19 per cent lower risk for childhood leukaemia.
She urged health institutions to enforce the exclusive breastfeeding for six months policy whereas employers and families must support it to protect children against autoimmune diseases and ensure their healthy growth.
Research by the World Health Organisation reveals that breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life.
“Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers,” it said.