CARPHA backs breastfeeding
...agency supports it as long-term strategy for more productive, healthier regionSunday, August 08, 2021
HEAD of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr Joy St John says breastfeeding can help to prevent childhood obesity and maternal obesity, which are important risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
“If we are to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) later in life, mothers should try to feed their babies exclusively with breast milk for the first six months of life,” she said in a release on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, which was observed from August 1-7, 2021.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, only 33 per cent of babies younger than six months of age were exclusively breastfed, the release said.
A survey conducted in collaboration with The University of the West Indies found around 40 per cent of mothers in Barbados had to stop exclusive breastfeeding in order to return to work. During the novel coronavirus pandemic, many organisations adjusted to individuals productively working from home, a policy which may also benefit breastfeeding mothers in the future, the release from CARPHA said.
According to the Lancet Editorial, 2016, the lack of breastfeeding policies is a missed opportunity globally for improved health and economic outcomes. Children who have been breastfed for longer show better performance in intelligence tests, which may result in improved academic performance, long-term earnings, and productivity, the release continued.
According to CARPHA, economic benefits to governments from improved breastfeeding policies will also include a reduced health-care burden as seen in the Americas and other regions of the world.
In the USA, UK, Brazil, and China, breastfeeding translates to reduced health-care costs of US$312 million, US$48 million, US$6 million, and US$30.3 million, respectively. Breastfeeding is critical for the health of the mother and baby, as well as the economic health of a country, which highlights the need for breastfeeding to be recognised as a shared responsibility, CARPHA said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond, along with nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods.
Breast milk, which is specially designed to meet the health needs of a growing baby, provides protection against infections and illnesses, including ear infections, diarrhoea, and pneumonia. Packed with many properties, breast milk is the best source of nutrition and first line of a baby's defence against infections. Antibodies protect against allergy and infection, and vitamin A prevents eye disease. Breast milk also helps prevent jaundice and contains fats that are necessary for brain development.
Dr Tamu Davidson, head of the Chronic Diseases and Injury Department at CARPHA noted: “Breastfeeding delivers health, nutritional, and emotional benefits to both children and mothers. It is a great way for mothers to bond with their babies, and mothers who breastfeed have lower rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.”
This year's theme for World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), 'Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility', is aligned with thematic area two of the WBW-Sustainable Development Goals 2030 campaign, which highlights the links between breastfeeding and survival, health, and well-being of women, children and nations. It focused on how breastfeeding contributes to the survival, health, and well-being of all, and the imperative to protect breastfeeding globally, CARPHA said.
“Protecting breastfeeding is a shared responsibility. It is time for all of us to inform, anchor, engage, and galvanise action to protect and support breastfeeding and facilitate the development of regional breastfeeding policies. An important part of protecting and supporting breastfeeding requires a public health approach where governments, civil society, communities, and other stakeholders work together to create a breastfeeding-friendly environment,” CARPHA said.
It said, too, that this is in keeping with its life course approach for the prevention of NCDs, of which breastfeeding is a key factor. CARPHA said it supports breastfeeding as a long-term strategy for a more productive and healthier region and encourages mothers to see breastfeeding as the optimal feeding method for infants.
According to the release, CARPHA has led training in the WHO/UNICEF 40-hour Breastfeeding Counselling Cours and training of health professionals in the 20-hour course for Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative implementation and certification. The agency has also supported member states with the development of national infant and young child feeding policies and hospital breastfeeding policies.
CARPHA said it has also developed guidelines for anyone involved in the care and management of newborns and pregnant or nursing women suspected of, or confirmed to be, infected with the novel coronavirus.
“To date, there is no evidence of the COVID-19 virus being present in breast milk or transmitted via breast milk. Because of the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding and the negative effects of stopping it, it is recommended that mothers continue to breastfeed. As with all confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, symptomatic mothers who are breastfeeding or practising skin-to-skin contact should practice respiratory hygiene during feeding (for example, wearing a mask), perform hand hygiene before and after contact with the child, and routinely clean and disinfect surfaces with which the mother has been in contact,” CARPHA said.
The agency added: “We call upon all CARPHA member states to take a whole-of-society approach and implement and reinforce the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. By protecting breastfeeding, we are also protecting human rights and taking important steps towards achieving the austainable development goals, leaving no one behind.”
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