A PUBLIC hospital in Bahrain has made a significant contribution to a national health goal by encouraging more than half of its new mothers to breastfeed exclusively for six months this year.
As of June 2022, 53 per cent of women who gave birth at King Hamad University Hospital (KHUH) had met the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) target of increasing exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) among infants younger than six months to 50pc by 2025.
“We are pleased that KHUH as a hospital has exceeded the WHO target with 53.7pc women – new mothers sticking to EBF for six months – a valuable addition to the kingdom’s breastfeeding goal,” KHUH Neonatology Consultant Dr Minoosh Mahmood Nasef told the GDN.
“According to KHUH statistics, breastfeeding rates among our new mothers are on the rise and are expected to continue.”
EBF is defined as ‘an infant receiving only breast milk, with no other liquids or solids – not even water, with the exception of oral rehydration solution, or drops/syrups of vitamins, minerals, or medicines.’
Studies have proven that breastfeeding is best. It can help protect babies against some short and long-term illnesses and diseases. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, Type 1 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They are also less likely to have ear infections and stomach bugs.
The EBF rate at KHUH increased from 42.9pc in February to 50.4pc in March, 51.3pc in April, 52.6pc in May, and 53.7pc in June.
The Bahraini doctor also mentioned that the national breastfeeding committee, of which KHUH is a member, was holding a campaign to rally community support by visiting various malls.
This aligns with the World Breastfeeding Theme 2022, ‘Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support’, which seeks to raise breastfeeding awareness by pleading with governments and groups to implement nursing safeguards.
“The breastfeeding campaign is held in August in conjunction with the month’s first week being designated as International Breastfeeding Week,” she explained.
“Along with the national team, KHUH participated in the campaign, which is still ongoing as part of the country’s efforts to increase breastfeeding rates.
“The campaign will continue in line with the WHO theme which is to educate on, support for and promote breastfeeding in the community – not just limited to the mother and her immediate family.”
As part of the hospital’s efforts to contribute to the theme, the KHUH breastfeeding committee under the Bahrain National Breastfeeding Committee, held two lectures on the importance of breastfeeding, one of the staff and the other for the outpatients.
“Beyond the education part it is practice of the act which matters as it helps in achieving the objectives out forward by WHO,” said Dr Nasef.
“The talks focused on how the community can help a mother in breastfeeding – it must be a collective approach.
“We can do it by strengthening mother-to-mother support – talking with other women who are breastfeeding can help mothers decide to start and keep breastfeeding and communities can also support mother-to-mother groups and develop peer counselling programmes in health care settings.
“We need to speak to the younger generation as well on the importance of breastfeeding.”
The challenges, such as breastfeeding in public, remain, she noted.
“First, we need to enhance private spaces in public places for breastfeeding – we do have this in malls, schools, healthcare and hospitality facilities, but we need to have them in places like government offices and courts.”
Health officials urge new mothers to seek the right resources of information on breastfeeding as some social media comments may be misleading.
Babies are born with the reflex to look for their mother’s breast. However, many mothers need practical support with positioning their baby for breastfeeding and making sure their baby is correctly attached. Breastfeeding may take time and practice for both mothers and babies and help and advice is readily available in Bahrain.