Mother’s milk is tailored for your baby and by exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of life the World Health Organisation has found that 37% of deaths in children under five as a result of malnutrition can be decreased by 13%.
Breastfeeding provides adequate nutrition during infancy and early childhood which is important to safeguard the health and development of children.
During World Breastfeeding Week, which takes place annually from August 1 to August 7, the Department of Health encourages mothers to exclusively breastfeed their children.
Bianca Carls, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health, said breast milk contained all the nutrients a baby needed for the first six months of life.
It contains antibodies to protect the baby’s gut and prevent harmful substances from passing into the blood. “It’s a perfect food that cannot be duplicated. Mother’s milk is tailor-made for your baby. Breastfed babies have less diarrhoea and chest infections, they also have normal growth patterns and are neither overweight nor underweight,” she said.
Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, the MEC for Health, said exclusive breastfeeding formed part of the First 1000 Days campaign, a holistic programme promoting the well-being of mothers and their babies, as well as the healthy development of infants in communities across the province.
“Research shows children who benefit from essential First 1000 Day outcomes are more likely to have healthier families themselves, and can earn up to 20 percent more as adults than their counterparts. Thus the right decisions about nutrition, the environment, safety and support for the mom play a huge part in determining the future happiness and success of the baby,” said Dr Mbombo.
She said exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life saved many infant lives. “During this period, an infant who is not breastfed is 14 times more likely to die from all causes than an exclusively breastfed infant.
“Infants who are exclusively breastfed are also less likely to die from diarrhoea and pneumonia, the two leading killers of children under five. Moreover, optimal breastfeeding improves brain development – which is essential for the development of any infant,” she said.
The Plainsman spoke to Sister Dannelene Noach, the operations manager in the labour ward at the Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital’s obstetrics unit.
A total of 297 mothers gave birth at the Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital in July. All of these women have been educated on the management of breastfeeding and taught the skills to facilitate effective and successful breastfeeding.
During Breastfeeding Week the staff of the unit have presentations with mothers at the hospital. There are also posters and boards up about the importance of breastfeeding. “We are very big on breastfeeding in our unit, and hospital. Every mother who walks into this unit are educated about breastfeeding. When they are sent to the Midwife Obstetrics Unit (MOU) they are given the same information. Mothers are also taught about techniques, how to express milk and much more.
“In some instances after all avenues have been exhausted the infant will be fed breastmilk replacement (infant formula,) either until the mothers own milk is available or as the feeding method. Mothers are counselled on how to implement alternate infant feeding methods,” she said.
Asked whether infants of mothers with complicated pregnancies and other health conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/ Aids, are born sicker than other babies and if breastfeeding benefit these infants more, sister Noach said: “Pregnant women are referred to appropriate levels of care (district, secondary or tertiary hospital) depending on their health status. Health conditions during pregnancy do not necessarily result in a sick neonate. The health state of the baby will be assessed at delivery and appropriate care plans implemented.”
Sister Noach said nurses and non-clinical staff go on a 20-hour course and doctors go on a four-t0-five-hour course every second year. It is the Mother and Baby Friendly Hospital initiative course that focuses on 10 steps of breastfeeding and mother and baby friendliness and many many more.
“They need to be kept updated and skilled in order to assist patients,”she said.