Western Cape Celebrates World Breastfeeding Week
Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. The Western Cape Government Health, in conjunction with the City of Cape Town, hosted a breastfeeding festival at the Good Hope Centre in an attempt to break the current Guinness World record for the number of mothers breastfeeding at the same time, and also to promote breastfeeding to mothers with infants.
Theuns Botha, Western Cape Minister of Health, said that the Western Cape's strategic objective of wellness aims to achieve the best health outcomes for the 5.8 million people in our province who are dependent on public health services. Towards this aim, women's health and the decrease of child mortality is among our five priority programmes, and the promotion of breastfeeding is an important element of generating healthy children. It speaks to the strengthening of babies' immunity in order to grow a healthy body.
The Western Cape has more than 20 hospitals that have received the WHO/UNICEF accreditation for Mother and Baby Friendly Status, indicating that they are implementing the "Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and Three Additional Items" appropriately.
In South Africa, infant feeding practices are sub-optimal, with rates of breastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding, remaining low over time despite a number of child health programmes and interventions. Data from the 2003 South African Demographic and Health Survey (SADHS) and other studies show that although breastfeeding is a common practice in South Africa and initiated early post-delivery, mixed feeding rather than exclusive breastfeeding is the norm. Approximately 70% of children are reported to have received complementary feeds before the age of six months.
The SADHS in 2003 found that only 11.9% of children aged zero to three months were exclusively breastfed, and 20.1% of children aged zero to three months were not breastfed at all.
Breast milk contains the right balance of nutrients to help an infant grow into a strong and healthy toddler. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond. The theme for this year's breastfeeding week is "Feeding Smart from the Start: Exclusive Breastfeeding".
Breastfeeding offers many benefits to the baby and should be initiated within the first hour after birth. Benefits include:
- Protecting your baby from a long list of illnesses.
- Protecting your baby from developing allergies.
- May boost your child's intelligence.
- May protect your child from obesity.
- May lower your baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- May reduce the mother's risk of some types of cancer.
- Can also reduce your stress level and your risk of postpartum depression (also called postnatal depression, a form of clinical depression which can affect women, typically after childbirth).
The current record for the most women breastfeeding at one time stands at 3 541 on the Guinness World Book of Records and the title is held by the Philippines.
This event has also received the support of various partners - namely, UNICEF, FHI360 the Dietetics Association of South Africa(ADSA) and others - and has received donations and sponsorships from various private companies as well. An event of this magnitude could not take place without support and assistance from civil society organisations and the private sector.