Step Up For Breastfeeding: Educate and Support
The world breastfeeding week celebrated from 1st to 7th of August is a worldwide celebration that occurs yearly in over 120 countries across the globe. World breastfeeding week seeks to underline the positive effects of breastfeeding on both maternal and baby health as well as encouraging, safeguarding and supporting women’s rights to breastfeed anywhere and at any given time.
It also aims to educate and train healthcare professionals to provide support to mothers and babies in effective ways as well as enhance knowledge within the community and request government support for the provision of legislation to support a breastfeeding mother.
The theme this year is Step up for breastfeeding: educate and support. The World Health Assembly (WHA) seeks to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding to at least 50% by 2025.
Why should you breastfeed your child?
Breastmilk supplies all the nutritional requirements for an infant in the first six months of life, promotes healthy weight and reduce childhood obesity. It also contains important antibodies that protect the infant from childhood illnesses. The colostrum (thick yellowish fluid) which is the first milk produced, especially contains protein, low in sugar, Immunoglobin A and other beneficial compounds and antibodies. Breastfed infants also perform better on Intelligence tests, as research has shown that breastfeeding has significant benefits in babies’ long-term brain development. WHO postulates that in children under 5, over 820,000 could be saved yearly if children aged 0-23 months are optimally breastfed.
Breastfeeding is also beneficial for the mother as it is not capital intensive, promotes mother-to-child bonding, reduces the risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Diabetes mellitus Type 2 and hypertension. Breastfeeding has also been found to help some mothers lose weight, however, it is not sacrosanct. It is also a means of contraception (Exclusive breastfeeding). It has been found to be a natural way of inhibiting ovulation and menstruation.
When should you breastfeed your child?
According to UNICEF and WHO, it is recommended that breastfeeding be commenced within the first hour of life and exclusive breastfeeding should be done for the first six months of life ergo, no food or any other liquid should be given to the infant, including water. Infants should also be breastfed on demand, that is, as often as the child needs either day or night and as many times as possible.
Ten steps to successful breastfeeding
The ten steps to breastfeeding consist of policies and primary care interventions that help facilities providing maternity and newborn services support breastfeeding. They include:
- A written breastfeeding policy that is regularly communicated to all health staff.
- Ensure that all healthcare staff have sufficient knowledge, skills and competence required to support breastfeeding.
- Discuss the benefits and management of breastfeeding with all pregnant women and their families.
- Facilitate breastfeeding as soon as possible, at least within one hour after birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and manage common difficulties, including maintaining lactation, especially when they are separated from their infants.
- Unless medically indicated, give newborns no food or drink other than breastmilk.
- Practice rooming-in 24 hours a day, that is, encouraging mothers and infants to remain together in a room.
- Encourage mothers to recognise and respond to their infant’s cues for feeding and breastfeed on demand.
- Discourage the use of artificial teats, soothers and pacifiers for breastfeeding infants and understand the risks with the use.
- Promote the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to these groups on discharge from the hospital.