The Gaza Post|The News of Palestine-Dubai
Today marks the start of World Breastfeeding Week and doctors across the UAE and beyond are using the event as a platform to highlight the virtues of natural feeding of babies.
Doctors say breastfeeding has important health benefits for both the mother and the baby and it also helps develop an emotional bond between them.
“For babies, it has long-term benefits as it reduces the baby’s risk of infections, diarrhea and vomiting, which results in fewer visits to hospital and clinics,” said Dr Yusra Abo Hamed, a specialist in public health and preventive medicine.
“It also reduces cot death [sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS], childhood leukaemia, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease later in life.
“For mothers, the same principles apply; the more they breastfeed, the greater the benefits are as it lowers the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and obesity.”
This year marks the 25th year of World Breastfeeding Week, which aims to inform and engage more women in breastfeeding their children.
With the hashtag #WBW2017, organisers this week are trying to attract political support, media coverage, participation of young people and widen their pool of supporters.
Dr Abo Hamed said that any amount of breast milk is beneficial, and the longer mothers breastfeed their babies, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.
“It is recommended to give breast milk exclusively to babies for the first six months of life. After that, babies need to keep being breastfed alongside other food until they reach two years of age.
“There are many myths about breastfeeding; some claim that breastfeeding could make breasts sag, which is untrue, another claim is that formula milk is the same as breast milk and that’s totally wrong.
“Formula milk is made from cow’s milk and it can contain bacteria, which is why it’s important to mix it with water hot enough to kill any bacteria (70C). It does not contain any cell or antibodies, therefore it doesn’t protect babies from infections and diseases like breast milk does, as it is full of live cells and antibodies.”
Dr Abo Hamed said that almost all women are physically able to breastfeed, while frequent feeding and responding to a baby’s demands offers the best chance to produce more milk.
“In general, breastfeeding should not be painful if the baby positioned or attached properly,” she said. “Midwives or health staff should be able to help the mother and guide them through the process.”
Working mothers should have maternity leave long enough to help them establish good breastfeeding skills, and they should have a comfortable room for lactation and expressing milk and breastfeeding, she added.
“Establishing an on-site day care nursery to help mothers to be close to their babies and breastfeed them when it’s needed will encourage working mothers to breastfeed as well as granting a break during work for expressing milk in a private and comfortable place with facilities to safely store it until it’s time to go home,” Dr Abo Hamed said.