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Breast is still best - Mothers encouraged to exclusively feed babies

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2020 | 12:08 AMVanessa James/Gleaner Writer

Miracle, Blessing, a bundle of joy are a few of the words used to describe the precious gift of a baby.

As such, babies are to be protected as much as possible, and one of the easiest ways to do so is through breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding provides many benefits to both mother and baby and its importance is so high on the list that the month of August is observed as World Breastfeeding Awareness Month.

Debbie-Ann Reid, enrolled assistant nurse at St Ann’s Bay Hospital, said mothers usually experience physical benefits from choosing to breastfeed their young ones.

“Breastfeeding is beneficial to the mother in that it helps with the uterus going back into place. They call it involution so it goes back to where it was previously,” said Reid. “It is also known that sometimes breastfeeding mothers have what they call ‘lactation amenorrhoea’, meaning that because they are breastfeeding they are not having a period, so they end up with a longer time frame before having regular periods again, so they are better able to space children,” said Reid.

She said the sucking motion from the baby while breastfeeding is said to prevent breast and ovarian cancer.

Reid noted that breast milk, being sterile and always accessible, makes for a great benefit as it is encouraged that mothers feed their babies on demand. So when they hear that ‘hungry cry’ the food is ready and available for the baby.

“The benefit for the baby is the same as far as feeding on demand is concerned, but also a baby who is breastfed is usually better protected because mommy is already protected, so whatever antibodies the mommy has is then transferred to the child, making them less susceptible to diseases, and they are sometimes less likely to become lactose-intolerant,” explained Reid.

According to Reid, in order to ensure that babies get the required nutrition to grow healthy and strong, breast milk is the preferred choice for nutrition, especially in the first six months of the baby’s life, where it is recommended that during this time the baby is exclusively breastfed.

“That exclusivity does not include water,” she said. “Some mothers will tell you, ‘oh, sometimes I give him water’ that should not be included; exclusive means only breast milk because everything what is needed is already in the breast milk.”

She advised that in a case where the baby refuses to accept milk from the breast, then it can be expressed into a bottle and fed to the baby. In the event that the baby refuses breast milk in any form, whether from the bottle or from his mother’s nipple, then formula is the next option.

Due to the importance of breastfeeding, the Ministry of Health and Wellness began pushing the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, which was initially launched in 1991, in an effort to give babies the best start at life by creating a healthcare environment that supports breastfeeding as the norm. At present, five hospitals have been certified under the initiative, with standards based on that of the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in line with the policy actions advocated by the UNICEF-WHO-led Global Breastfeeding Collective, are calling on governments to:

INVEST: to make skilled breastfeeding counselling available to every woman. Ensuring availability of skilled breastfeeding counselling to every woman will require increased financing for breastfeeding programmes and improved monitoring and implementation of policies, programmes and services.

TRAIN: healthcare workers, including midwives and nurses, to deliver skilled breastfeeding counselling to mothers and families.

ENSURE: that counselling is made available as part of routine health and nutrition services that are easily accessible.

PARTNER: and collaborate with civil society and health professional associations, building strong collaborative systems for the provision of appropriate counselling.

PROTECT: healthcare workers from the influence of the baby food industry.