The foremost challenge of support breastfeeding mothers face in Antigua and Barbuda will be addressed as the nation observes National Breastfeeding Week, which starts today.
Head of the National Breastfeeding Committee, Samantha Moitt, told OBSERVER media that women who breastfed their children could have only done so with the right support from their families and the community.
“We have gotten more mothers to come onboard to tell their stories and support was the biggest thing. It was easier for persons who work in the healthcare sector who stuck with it and in some cases, they even had a breastfeeding group amongst themselves. Even the mothers with babies from the NICU they supported each other and shared their experiences,” Moitt told OBSERVER yesterday.
She pointed to another challenge, recently identified, that hindered women from continued and sustained breatfeeding – having multiple children or the introduction of formula to babies too early.
She said babies find it easier to suck from an artificial nipple that provided a continuous stream of milk without much effort versus sucking on a mother’s breasts and the baby would eventually refuse the breasts.
In encouraging mothers to participate in the planned activities, Moitt invited women to attend the National Latch On initiative taking place on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at several public health facilities.
“We are inviting those who are in the same community to come at that time, it is a way for mothers to get support and also to normalise that you can breastfeed in public. We will be there for support and we are going to have moms speaking on their positive experiences,” Moitt added.
The team will be at the All Saints Health Centre, today at 8:30 – 9.30 a.m. On Wednesday, they will engage with mothers at the Browne’s Avenue Health Centre and the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre Maternity Ward from 10 a.m.
Then on Thursday, the team will meet with mothers and other interested individuals at the Clare Hall and Gray’s Farm Health Centre from 10 a.m.
The Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) said all babies in Latin American and the Caribbean should be breastfed within the first hour of life. PAHO states that about half of babies (52 percent) in the region are not breastfed within that time.
PAHO stressed that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for newborns.
In 2017, an estimated 78 million babies – or three in five – were not breastfed within the first hour of life, “putting them at higher risk of death and disease and making them less likely to continue breastfeeding,” according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a new report.
PAHO recommended breastfeeding of babies exclusively until the age of six months, and breastfeeding as a supplement until the age of two years.
Currently, just 38 percent of all babies are breastfed exclusively until six months of age in the region, and just 32 percent continue breastfeeding for two years, PAHO said.
The health organisation said breastfeeding also improves a child’s IQ, school readiness and attendance, and is associated with earning higher income when they reach adulthood.
Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of breast cancer in mothers, PAHO said.
This year, the slogan for Breastfeeding week, led by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), is “Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life.”