(First appeared in New Era 1 April 2015)
The past week has seen me working in Swakopmund again. As luck would have it, my wife and son could also join me at the coast so that we could spend some of the weekend – especially Easter weekend - together. After all, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. This proverb means that without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring.
One night we visited the Tug Restaurant near to the jetty for dinner. The place was reasonably busy and my wife and I enjoyed the excellent food that was served by a gracious waitress that timed each of our three courses perfectly. At one point my four month old son needed his “meal” and informed us in a rather melodious cry that he would wait no further. The restaurant had no problem with my wife sitting in our corner and breastfeeding him under a cover. None of the other patrons seemed disturbed either and I felt pleased that he was able to complete his meal without any disturbance.
This is definitely the type of service we expect from restaurants and I am glad to see that the breastfeeding was a “non-issue”.
Namibia as a country has a very positive culture towards breastfeeding and our health professionals are encouraging mothers to breastfeed until at least six months of age. For the first three months it is suggested the child only gets breast milk and even water is discouraged. Only if a mother has a medical condition will the state clinics make available baby formula (for free). At first, this sounds like a cost saving measure but after careful investigation it also turns out to have very solid science behind the advice.
“Breast milk is best for your baby, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness.”
During my first marriage, the wife and I were very “career-orientated”. This meant that we took the children off the breast early to allow the mother to return to work as soon as possible. Looking back, it seems we could have done a little bit more to ensure the long-term health (both physical and mental) of our children. In the recent past, researchers have found a correlation between children’s susceptibility to diseases, their ability to deal with vaccines and the foods that they start eating before six months of age.
Doing a little bit of research I came across the following universally accepted advice: 1) If you can, breastfeed for at least a year. 2) Minimise sugar and junk food as sugar weakens the immune system. 3) Minimise chemical exposures from the food your child eats. Eating organic fruits vegetables, etc, means a good way to help insure a healthier body and brain. 4) Use Omega-3 oil supplements (which breast milk is full of). 5) Make sure your infant gets enough Vitamin A as this can limit vaccine reactions.
As consumers (and all busy with the rat race), we have very little awareness of what we actually put into our mouths to ensure a healthy body and brain. More often than not, we get side-tracked in the importance of earning a living that we forget to invest in living a life rather than just earning.
That is why it is important for the consumer movement to stay vigilant on the foods that we buy – whether raw or processed – to ensure the long-term health of each of us. Wherever business puts in additives or genetically modifies or foodstuffs, keep in mind that it is being done for a profit motive – not necessarily to ensure the longevity of their consumers.