Supporting a mother during her breastfeeding journey
Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August. This year’s theme is: “Support breastfeeding for a healthier South Africa”.
The Western Cape Government has adopted the Mother Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, which requires that all babies must be placed in the skin to skin position immediately after birth and that the baby should latch to the breast within the first hour after birth. Research has proven that this intervention increases the chances of exclusive breastfeeding long term.
It is recommended that mothers who can breastfeed their baby, breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their baby’s life. Thereafter it can be continued in addition to appropriate, safe and adequate complementary foods up to two years and beyond.
“When parents choose to breastfeed their children, they’re making the most important decision because breastfeeding is not just food for the baby but there is a release of hormones that allows a mother and her baby to bond in a very special way, this is a lifetime gift that a mother can give her baby. A baby feels safe and secure and this provides a healthy start for a baby’s life. I encourage mothers to breastfeed,” says Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Minister of Health.
Breastfeeding provides antibodies and other components that protect children against most common childhood illnesses. Breastfeeding also has an important role in the prevention of different forms of childhood malnutrition, including wasting, stunting, over- and underweight and micronutrient deficiencies
Breastfeeding your baby contributes to their health, immune system, growth, and development. According to the World Health Organization, nearly half of diarrhoea episodes and one third of respiratory infections in infants can be prevented by breastfeeding your baby.
As this year’s theme suggests, breastfeeding mothers need to be supported to maintain breastfeeding. Fathers or partners, families, the community, employers, and healthcare workers play an important role in successful breastfeeding.
A father or partner can support the breastfeeding mother by doing household chores, parenting non-breastfeeding children, and helping her to buy nutritious foods. They can also support the breastfeeding mother by being present and not exposing her to the dangers of sexually transmitted infections and by not exposing her to gender-based violence.
Families and communities can support breastfeeding mothers by creating an environment where mothers are complimented for breastfeeding. Families can assist with home chores to allow the mother more time to breastfeed. If the mother has suspected or confirmed COVID-19, her family can support her by feeding expressed breastmilk to the baby if the mother is not feeling well or self-isolating at home.
Can I breastfeed if I have or think I may have COVID-19?
All mothers should continue breastfeeding as it is the best food for their baby. So far the Coronavirus has not been found in breastmilk. Wash your hands with soap and clean water before breastfeeding and when holding your baby or placing them on your chest (skin to skin). Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when breastfeeding. Choose 2 or 3 people who can help you care for the baby when you are not feeling well. Make sure that they wash their hands and wear a mask before touching the baby. No-one should touch or kiss the baby’s face.
Succeeding in your breastfeeding journey
Discuss your breastfeeding decision with your partner and other family members before the baby arrives. Also inform your healthcare worker.
Once your baby is born, ask your healthcare worker for assistance to help your baby latch or if you struggle with breastfeeding or feel unsure. Seek professional help if you are feeling concerned that your baby is not feeding enough or struggles to breastfeed.
For more information on breastfeeding visit: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/first-1000-days/
Annual breastfeeding webinar
Breastfeeding is universally recognised as the optimal infant feeding method and provides food security for one of the most vulnerable population groups in our Province. Nutrition is one of the critical pillars in the first thousand days of a child’s life, from conception until the age of two. Breastfeeding plays a critical role with the numerous linked benefits for optimal growth and development. This unique window of opportunity provides a platform to promote action and investment in nutrition in order to build a strong foundation for children, their families and their nations to thrive and survive.
Western Cape Government Health hosts an annual seminar to update attendees from both the public and private health sectors on the progress and plants afoot in the First Thousand Days initiative. This year the seminar will be in the form of a digital webinar.
In alignment with the vision and mission of the Western Cape Government, this year’s webinar will share information on the safety of breastfeeding in the context of COVID-19.
Principal Communications Officer
Garden Route and Central Karoo Districts
Western Cape Government Health
Tel: 044 5333846
Cell: 076 379 5423