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Jamaicans' approach to breastfeeding sucks - Less than half giving babies breast milk exclusively

Published:Wednesday | July 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Theresa Garnett breastfeeds her son, Tahir Scott, while attending the launch of National Breastfeeding Week at the Haven of Hope Church of the Open Bible in August Town, St Andrew, in 2010.
Expectant mothers and patrons at a recent staging of 'A Big Baby Shower'.

Jamaica continues to miss the Ministry of Health's target of 60 per cent exclusive breastfeeding up to six weeks despite several efforts to get more mothers to engage in the practice.

Data released by the Planning Institute of Jamaica in the 2016 Economic and Social Survey reveal that 33,218 babies up to three months old were seen in the public health centres last year.

Of this amount, 47.5 per cent were exclusively breastfed, 49.3 per cent were partially breastfed, and 3.2 per cent were not breastfed.

This was in line with 2015 when approximately 48 per cent of six-week-old babies seen at public health centres were exclusively breastfed.

The health ministry has repeatedly argued that the bond between a mother and her child is one of the strongest connections in nature. This is strengthened during the postnatal period of the child's life and throughout the breastfeeding period.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all babies should be exclusively breastfed from birth until six completed months, and that breastfeeding should be continued for two years and beyond.

Children's Advocate and mother of four, Diahann Gordon Harrison, recently disclosed that she breastfed each of her children for a minimum one year.

According to Gordon Harrison, she felt breastfeeding was necessary for the individual development of her children as this is not only best for the baby, but it also helps mothers in recuperating from the effects of pregnancy.

"I think it is absolutely the best for the baby and also the mother, as it relates to quality bonding time, and it also helps you to lose the tummy," said Gordon Harrison as she argued that breastfeeding was one of the best decisions that she made as a mother.

"My kids in the first two years of their life didn't have any major issues. In fact, we only went to the paediatrician when it was time for a 'shot' (vaccine) or a developmental visit," added Gordon Harrison at a recent event dubbed 'A Big Baby Shower', which was held at ATL Automotive.

Nutritionist for Kingston and St Andrew and member of the National Infant and Young Child Feeding Committee, Stephen Robinson, told persons at the shower that Jamaicans generally think in the 'now' as it relates to breastfeeding, and not of the long-term effects.

"Studies have shown that the longer a mother breastfeeds, the less likely her chances of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

"There's also a link with the duration of breastfeeding and the risk of getting these chronic diseases," said Robinson.

Breastfeeding also protects the mother's health by reducing her risk of uterine bleeding, breast and ovarian cancer, and delay a new pregnancy.

The Ministry of Health, through the Jamaica Moves programme, is seeking to emphasise the importance of breastfeeding as a strategy to reduce non-communicable diseases in Jamaica.