Gareth Davis, Gleaner Writer
Health officials urge mothers to breastfeed children, say it protects from various illnesses
PORT ANTONIO, Portland:
MOTHERS WERE on Monday encouraged to breastfeed their children, in an effort to protect them from various illnesses.
The call was made at the launch of the National Breastfeeding Week on Monday at the Old Marina in Port Antonio, put on by the Ministry of Health and the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA).
Guest speaker Dr Kevin Harvey, director, Health Promotion and Protection Branch in the ministry, said breastfeeding was very important.
"New mothers have to be supported in this initiative," he said.
Harvey told the gathering that the ministry will continue to promote the benefits, especially of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life, and continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary food for up to two years and beyond.
"The ministry recommends a community approach to breastfeeding, and this is the same approach that we continue to advocate and believe will assist in improving overall health through the primary health care system. The breast is the best source of food and nourishment for babies, and it also helps in their emotional and physical development, as well as their overall well-being and health."
National Breastfeeding Week is observed in the third week of September in Jamaica. The week seeks to encourage mothers to provide infants with breast milk for the first six months of their life.
According to the ministry, thousands of research and articles have documented the lifesaving benefits of breastfeeding, including the reduction of illnesses, needless suffering, ear infection, childhood cancers, and other illnesses.
Regional director of NERHA, Suzzette Morris, explained that this year's theme, 'Supporting breastfeeding: learning from the past; securing the future', is very relevant. She noted that breastfeeding must commence in the delivery room and continue through the health centres, and then into the communities.
"Breastfeeding is also a contraceptive. Many of us are two or more years apart from our siblings as a result of our mothers' breastfeeding for an extending period, without even being aware that they were reaping the rewards of one of the most natural methods of contraceptive," said Morris.