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close this book Community Nutrition Action for Child Survival
close this folder Part I - Community nutrition problems and interventions
close this folder Unit 3: PROMOTING BREASTFEEDING
View the document Session 1: The importance of breastfeeding
View the document Session 2: Helping mothers breastfeed
View the document Session 3: Breastfeeding information for Kenyans

Session 1: The importance of breastfeeding


In this session, trainees list the advantages of Breastfeeding and the dangers of bottle-feeding and breast milk substitutes. Rules for successful Breastfeeding are presented and discussed.

Time: 1 hour


- Handout - "Breastfeeding Self-Test" plus answer sheet

- Handout - "Rules for Successful Breastfeeding"

- Flipchart and marking pens


1. Distribute the "Breastfeeding Self-Test" and ask trainees to complete it individually. When they finish, tell them that you will discuss the test at the end of the session.

2. Ask trainees to brainstorm the advantages of Breastfeeding for mothers and infants. List their responses on the flipchart. Then, ask trainees to brainstorm the dangers of bottle-feeding and early introduction of foods other than breast milk. List these on the flipchart. Add any advantages or dangers that you feel trainees have missed.

Summarize: "Breastfeeding has many advantages for mothers and infants. Breastfed infants are generally healthier than infants fed with bottles and breast milk substitutes. This is especially true in low income families because breast milk is a clean, nutritious and low cost food for infants. Breast milk also contains anti-infective agents that help breastfed infants fight against infection. Infants who are not breastfed and those who are given foods other than breast milk during the first months of their lives are very often malnourished and at "high risk" of sickness and death."

3. Distribute the Handout - "Rules for Successful Breast-feeding." Discuss each of the rules and the reasons why each one encourages successful breastfeeding.

4. Discuss the importance of giving colostrum. In many countries, women believe that colostrum should not be given to newborn infants. This is not true! The composition of colostrum is different from the milk produced by the mother 3-5 days after birth. Colostrum contains large amounts of protein substances (including secretory immunoglobulin) which helps prevent infection in the newborn. It is a good idea to put the infant to the mother's breast immediately after delivery since frequent sucking is necessary to establish lactation.

5. Summarize this session by asking the trainees to repeat the self-test taken at the beginning of the session. After they finish, review the correct answers to each of the questions and compare scores before and after the session. Leave some time for additional questions and answers.



























Answer the following questions TRUE or FALSE.




1. Breast milk contains all the nutrients an infant needs until he/she is four months to six months of age.


2. Women with small breasts will have difficulty breastfeeding.


3. Colostrum has no nutritional value. It should be discarded.


4. Breastfeeding should be on a schedule.


5. After birth, it is best to wait 24 hours before putting an infant to the breast.


6. Malnourished women cannot breastfeed their infants successfully.


7. Most women can breastfeed successfully.


8. Pregnancy should be avoided while the youngest child is still breastfeeding.


9. Frequent breastfeeding will increase milk production.


10. Women who are breastfeeding should eat extra food and drink plenty of liquid every day.


11. It is advisable to give an extra bottle of milk or formula if an infant appears to be hungry after breastfeeding,




1. Breastfeed as soon after birth as possible.

The infant's suckling at the breast stimulates milk production. It also insures that the infant receives colostrum, the first yellowish liquid produced by the breast. Colostrum contains concentrated anti-infective agents that help protect the infant against sickness.

2. Breastfeed frequently (on demand).

The production of milk is stipulated by the baby's suckling so the baby should be fed on demand rather than according to a schedule. The more an infant breastfeeds, the more milk the breast will produce.

3. If possible, eat extra food every day.

During breastfeeding, the caloric needs of the mother are increased. It is estimated that an additional 500 calories per day are needed by the mother. If these calories are not available, the mother's fat supply will be used for milk production. Most women, even in countries where chronic malnutrition is prevalent, are able to breastfeed their infants exclusively for 4-6 months. Research has found that breastmilk from undernourished mothers contains amounts of protein and lactose similar to those of well-nourished mothers. Emphasis should be placed on improving maternal diet before supplementing the diet of the breastfeeding infant.

4. Relax.

Breastmilk is released by the ejection or let-down reflex. It can be temporarily inhibited by tension or anxiety.

5. Do not give other foods and liquids until the infant is at least four months old.

Do not give other foods and liquids until the infant is at least 4-6 months of age. Breastmilk alone is generally sufficient until this age. Supplemental foods reduce the amount of time the infant sucks on the breast and therefore reduces the amount of milk the mother produces.

6. Avoid bottle feeding!

When the infant is 4-6 months of age, foods in addition to breastmilk can gradually be added to the infant diet. A cup and spoon should he used.