Western Cape Government Health was part of International Breastfeeding Week which took place from 1 – 7 August. The theme for 2013 World Breastfeeding Week is ‘Breastfeeding Support: close to mothers’. Even when mothers are able to get off to a good start, all too often in the weeks and certainly a few months after delivery, there is a sharp decline in exclusive breastfeeding rates and breastfeeding practices. Continued support beyond the health care facility is essential to ensure sustained exclusive breastfeeding and this can be provided in a variety of ways.
Exclusive breastfeeding within the first hour after delivery has benefits for both mother and child. As early suckling can increase uterine activity and may reduce the risk of bleeding after delivery which is one of the most common direct complications that can lead to death of the mother after delivery.
The objectives for the breastfeeding week 2013 are:
• To highlight importance of exclusive breastfeeding in reducing child mortality
• To emphasize the importance of supporting mothers to breastfeed during the early days post-delivery within the health facility, households and in the community.
• To increase public awareness on the benefits of early feeding as well as continued breastfeeding in child survival.
The Western Cape Government Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life (no other food or liquid – not even water – is needed during this period). Breast milk contains the perfect balance of nutrients, to help your baby’s body grow strong and the right amount of vitamins and minerals to develop your baby’s brain. It contains enough water so that you baby’s thirst is quenched, even on hot days.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha says, “We are encouraging mothers to breastfeed as it fits into our strategic objective of creating wellness, which in the long term will help form resilient, productive youth who can become part of a healthier future.”
It is important that a pregnant or breastfeeding mom does not smoke or drink alcohol during this time. It is better for both mom and baby that she eats healthy food and drinks enough fluids, to help her body produce wonderful, life giving, free of charge breast milk.
Breast milk protects babies from illnesses such Diarrhoea and Respiratory infections which increase the risk of death to infants, by hel-ping to boost their immune-system. Other health benefits are that exclusive breastfeeding helps the digestive system develop so that these babies are less likely to develop constipation. Breastfeeding result in the increased secretion of endorphins, (hormones that make you feel good), which helps both mother and baby relax.
Breastfeeding is safe for HIV positive mothers, it is important for HIV positive mothers to follow their healthcare worker’s instructions carefully and not to use mixed feeds, so that your baby can stay healthy. HIV positive moms should always use their antiretroviral medication as advised, as this will help prevent their babies from contracting HIV. Working mothers can continue to breastfeed even when they have returned to work. Moms-to-be should discuss their concerns about breastfeeding with their health care worker.