AS the world marks World Breastfeeding Week, starting today, stronger support systems and more awareness were deemed necessary to promote healthier breastfeeding routines in new families.
World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) have been organising the week since 2016, and is part of efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
It is organised in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.
WABA is a global network of individuals and organisations dedicated to the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding worldwide.
The theme this year is ‘Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support’ and it aims to raise awareness, inform and encourage action on breastfeeding and related issues.
“As new parents embark on the new journey of taking care of a newborn, they face several challenges,” consultant family physician Dr Zainab Al Mohsen told the GDN.
“A baby is a full-time job, requiring care and nourishment throughout the day and night and as they thrive they go through different phases each requiring parents to adjust their lives dramatically.
“Mothers in particular do this while recovering from pregnancy and childbirth which has a large toll on her health and mind, and breastfeeding is physical work which sometimes needs time and practice.”
According to Dr Al Mohsen, learning new aspects of baby health, feeding and sleeping is achieved by most parents through experiencing the difference between normal and abnormal baby behaviour.
She added that fast-paced lives, financial stressors and change in extended family dynamics make relaxed parenting difficult.
“In order to help parents face new baby challenges, they need to be equipped with the proper education – in particular during the antenatal period (the period of time from conception to before birth),” she said.
“Studies have shown that fathers have a big impact on how mothers feel and make decisions – particularly about infant feeding.
“Fathers are an important member of the breastfeeding team and when they are engaged and educated on the best feeding practices they will be able to support their partners and protect them from exaggerated marketing by the formula industry.
“Human babies have their own way of communicating with their caregivers and they thrive better when they are nurtured and when they have their needs met – which happens more routinely when parents are educated and aware of normal infant behaviour.”
Dr Al Mohsen reaffirmed the importance of education in raising the parents’ confidence which further strengthens child-parent bonds.
It was critical for birth facilities to provide parents with means of communication – if they have feeding problems – while also arranging for regular follow-up with community healthcare providers.
“Through education and support, parents have a better chance at improving their breastfeeding journey.
“Breastfeeding is associated with improved health for babies – short and long term – while also reducing the risk of cancer and other diseases for the mother.
“Protecting breastfeeding will provide better health of our society as a whole which in turn makes happy human beings.”