Breastfeeding Awareness Week
"There is no substitute for breast milk," mininster Uys said in a statement to raise awareness of the advantages of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the single most effective intervention to prevent child mortality and morbidity. It is a simple way to save young lives.
"During my visits to health care facilities throughout the province, I am experiencing first hand that our mothers are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of disease prevention through healthy child feeding habits of which breastfeeding is an important component ," he said.
For most babies, exclusive breastfeeding for six months followed by continued breastfeeding, together with nutritious complementary foods for two years or beyond is the key to health and is the optimal approach to child feeding.
Uys says that a sound and well supported breastfeeding scheme is the foundation of a strong immune system.The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and the maternity protection for mothers are all there to create an enabling environment for mothers to breastfeed. "We have been advocating and promoting the advantages of breastfeeding in all our health care facilities throughout the province through a Code workshop ,talks, breastfest ( all breastfeeding mothers come together and breastfeed at the same time) exhibitions and the distribution of nutrition information and also had wonderful results with our Kangaroo Mother Care system" he said.
Kangaroo Mother Care involves exclusive breastfeeding for infants with low birth weight with its principle of skin-to-skin contact where the naked baby is placed between the mother's bare breasts and is tied securely with a cloth.
Other advantages of breastfeeding are:
- Breastfed babies develop faster and show improved cardio-respiratory stability.
- When mother's breastfeed, hospitals can use resources more efficiently and better quality care can be given.
- Breastfeeding promotes mother-infant bonding.
- It is economical and brings about considerable savings in hospital costs.
- Breastfeeding improves the immune system of babies and colostrum provides the first immunisation.
- Breastfeeding renders protection for mothers against osteoporosis as well as breast and ovarian cancer.
- Helps with the involution of the uterus and thus prevent excessive bleeding in the mother.
- Breastfeeding is more hygienic.
- Breastfeeding helps infants to do without artificial teats or pacifiers (dummies or soothers).
The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes aims to protect and promote exclusive breastfeeding by prohibiting the advertising and aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes feeding bottles and teats. Despite progress made since the World Health assembly adopted the Code in 1981,work still need to be done to improve breastfeeding practices. South Africa has an ethical Code and is in the process of legislating a South African Code.
Good nutrition and Breastfeeding for children are critical for the achievement of the UN Millenium Development Goals, particularly the goals relating to child survival,such as reducing the rate of under 5 child mortality and eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
Minister Uys said health professionals of his department are well equipped to inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding. Continuous retraining occurs to maintain a high quality standard of care and service delivery.
" Let us all work together to give our children the best start in life" he said.
The Directorate Communications
Office of the Superintendent of Health, Western Cape
Department of Health
Tel: 021 483 3235
Herman van der Westhuizen
Media Liaison Officer to the Minister of Health
Tel: 021 483 2627