August 1 to 7 is World Breastfeeding Week. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is calling for a concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is of paramount importance that she is empowered to claim her and her baby’s right to breastfeed. Women face the challenge of having to adjust to the baby’s feeding schedule when they go back to the workplace after maternity leave. One solution could be mothers expressing breastmilk for the baby to take while they are working. Work places could provide the privacy and refrigeration facilities for breastfeeding mothers to express milk during the day, as well as reasonable break time during the work day, as there is often not enough time or energy left when the mother gets home after a long day’s work. Globally, much has been achieved in supporting women to manage a balance between breastfeeding and work commitments. This has been achieved largely through intuitive maternity entitlements and more countries actively improving national legislation and workplace practices.
Though the decision to breastfeed is personal, it is one that is likely to draw strong opinions from friends, family and the community at large and as such women need holistic support to carry through their breastfeeding decision effectively and safely for their babies.
The benefits of breastfeeding are well researched and documented. Breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants with a range of benefits for infants’ health, growth, immunity and development. It is a unique nutritional source that cannot adequately be replaced by any other food and it remains superior to infant formula from the perspective of the overall health benefits of both mother and child. It provides a number of health advantages beginning at birth and continuing throughout life.
Nutrition: Breast milk has an optimum mix of nutrients including vitamins, protein and fat – everything your baby needs to grow provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula. Infant formula is able to mimic a few of the nutritional components of breast milk, but formula cannot hope to duplicate the vast and constantly changing array of essential nutrients in human milk.
Immunity: Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off infections such as viral and bacterial infections. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhoea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor.
A custom-made supply: Formula is not able to change its constitution, but your breast milk morphs to meet your baby’s changing needs, without the need for heating, mixing or sterilization and cleaning of bottles and teats.
Bonding: Breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin in the mother’s body which promotes the development of bonding between mother and offspring. The physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure as an added advantage.
Weight gain: Breastfed infants are less likely to become overweight children and have a lower risk of developing diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers later in life.
Other benefits: Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies and has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood.
Breastfeeding Benefits for the Mother?
• Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster.
• It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth.
• Breastfeeding lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
• Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life.
• It saves time and money as there is no need to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples, or warm bottles.
• It gives you regular time to relax quietly with your newborn as you bond.
Full circle, granny knew it all, natural is best. Help a working mother give her baby the best!!!
• Dr Gina Rusike works at Aneni Health Services in Khomasdal and can be reached on 061 212696 or at email firstname.lastname@example.org.