In line with Breastfeeding Week, the Western Cape Department of Health has a sustained focus on the promotion of maternal health and the health of young infants. Breastfeeding has been proven as an essential element in infant health with numerous advantages for the health of the mother too.
As part of our intervention in this regard, the department recently launched its new ‘Breast is Best’ campaign, making use of radio advertising and a MXit campaign. The Mxit portal currently has nearly 17 000 users (having grown from 9000 when the campaign started on 28 July). The campaign is targeted mostly at young mothers, who are provided with useful information and tips on breastfeeding through this campaign. It is very accessible since MXit does not require a smartphone for access. Once users have downloaded MXit on their phones they can simply download the Breast is Best app from the MXit store (a screen grab of the MXit application can be found below).
The campaign was launched to coincide with Women’s month and will run for the month of August in media, even though the information content will still be available on MXit and the website afterwards. In addition to media there is also a focus on community involvement and activations. Places targeted include taxi ranks, existing health facilities, community dialogues, information displays and community gatherings.
Under the campaign the Western Cape Department of Health advocates/promotes Exclusive Breastfeeding for the first six months of the infant’s life followed by the introduction of appropriate complementary foods and the continuation of breastfeeding for two years and beyond. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months means giving babies only breast milk with no supplementary feeding of any type (no water, juice, animal milk, and solid foods) except for vitamins, minerals, and medications prescribed by a doctor or healthcare worker when medically indicated.
The benefits of breast milk for babies are numerous. Lower rates of childhood obesity, decreased incidence of asthma and even better brain development have all been identified as associated with breastfeeding. The mother and the community also benefits from a mother breastfeeding. For the mother, breastfeeding is known to reduce the risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis, and a quicker return of the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size. Breastfeeding also helps women return to their pre-pregnancy weight a lot quicker. For the community, breastfeeding is linked to a healthier child who decreases the burden on the health system and contributes to the economy by supporting the development of a productive healthy adult.
The first few days after giving birth to a newborn can be a very trying time for breastfeeding and the support a mother receives in that time influences for how long she will continue to breastfeed. During the first few days at home the mother may be tired and will need as much rest as possible within her environment. Family’s support, a relaxed environment and assistance at home will contribute considerably towards a positive breastfeeding expe-rience for mom and the rest of the family.
What can Dads do? Care for the baby in others ways other than feeding (baths, nappy change, walks and helping around the house).
What can family and friends do? Listen and be supportive. Boosts mum’s confidence in breastfeeding. Provide emotional support and practical help (grocery shopping, cooking meals or tidying the house).
What can be done in the workplace? Make it easier for mums to return to work by providing time and place to breastfeed or express and store breast milk.
What mums can do? They will need help with learning to breastfeed and so will the baby. Don’t be afraid to ask for it! Mothers requiring assistance can contact their closest maternal health facility for free advice and demo sessions.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, encourages mothers to breastfeed. “The promotion of breastfeeding is important for a healthy generation. The ‘Breast is Best’ campaign forms part of our government’s strategic objective of creating wellness. All our health facilities are geared towards promoting breastfeeding. We are exceptionally proud of our facilities that have received the international Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative accreditation.”