Breast milk, the perfect food

A mother breastfeeds her newborn baby (Photo: UNICEF DRC 2017)

I am Hugues, Child Reporter of Bukavu, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Today, I want to talk to you about breastfeeding, which is a very important food for children because it promotes good growth in infants.

Yet, often, mothers deprive their children of this food, choosing instead to bottlefeed. It is a serious issue because bottles are often not sterilized and they contain milk diluted with unhygienic water and dangerous for the babies’ health. It is because mothers work that they are not always able to breastfeed their children during the recommended 6 month period. When they are too preoccupied by their work, they do not have the time to breastfeed or at least to breastfeed regularly for six months, as they should.

There are also mothers who cannot breastfeed because, being too poor, they are themselves malnourished and do not have enough milk. Finally, it can also occur that a baby is not breastfed because of parents who are illiterate, negligent or ignorant. They do not realize that they are putting their child at risk by not offering him or her breast milk.

Not breastfeeding infants can make them suffer greatly by either leading to malnutrition, infections, or poor growth.

On the other hand, when it is carried out regularly for the first six months, breastfeeding is always hygienic and promotes a healthy growth, immunizes children against common infections, helps to prevent dehydration and decreases the seriousness of respiratory infections. Breast milk truly is a nutritionally perfect food.

Therefore, dear mothers, provide your children with a base for a healthy growth by breastfeeding for six months and promoting breastfeeding around you. Do not give water or other foods to your baby for the first six months after birth, to avoid illnesses.

Dear political, civil and other authorities, please note that the measures aimed at protecting children from the deficiencies and the errors of the world of adults are one of the key ways to reduce the most fundamental problems of humanity. Do not forget that Article 19 of the Convention on the Right of the Child stipulates that the State must protect the child against any form of mistreatment perpetrated by his or her parents or by any other person to whom he or she is entrusted.

Appropriate social programmes should be established and you should increase training centres for mothers, especially in rural areas. You should sensitize more women to the importance of breastfeeding and to the risks of other methods of feeding infants. It is the only way for us to have hope to lower the number of deaths and to prevent our future decision-makers from being malnourished children.

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Translated from French by Lisa Berthelot

Initally published in May 2015

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Hugues est parlementaire des enfants à Bukavu, dans la province du Nord Kivu. Il étudie à l'Institut Bangu en section littéraire et rêve de travailler pour l'enfance, car l'enfant est toujours victime. Il s’est engagé dans le club de paix de chez lui et aime beaucoup son adage "qui aime la paix prépare l'enfant et non la guerre".

Hugues is a children’s parliamentarian in Bukavu, North Kivu. He studies in the literary section of the Institut Bangu and dreams of working for childhood, because the child is always a victim. He has joined the peace club in his neighbourhood and very much likes his motto “whoever loves peace prepares children not war”.

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