Exclusive Breastfeeding: the Gold Standard
Feeding Week 2004
Each August, World Breastfeeding Week (WBW)
is celebrated by over 120 nations. There is a different theme each year – this
year, the aim is for finding ways to help more Mothers achieve this gold
This year’s theme is all about teaching
people how important and beneficial exclusive breastfeeding is, as well as
making it possible for more mothers to participate.
Exclusive breastfeeding is advised by
the World Health Organization (WHO) for the first six months of life. That means
that babies under six months of age should be given nothing except breast milk –
no water, formula or solids. Prescribed medications and nutritional supplements
can be given if required.
In Australia, 64% of babies are
exclusively breastfed to three months and 8% are not breastfed at all. At least
these figures have been rising since the 1990s. (ABS 2001)
Ideally, solids will be introduced at
six months, but breastfeeding will then continue until at least two years of
age. Currently, only 13% of Australian babies are breastfed beyond 1 year,
although the global figure was 79% in 2000. (ABS 2001)
WHO has estimated that 1.5 million
lives a year could be saved if every baby is exclusively breastfed for six
Breast milk provides a baby with the
correct nutrients in the correct proportions. The mother or wet nurse will
produce the right amount for the individual baby as long as demand feeding if
allowed. It is cheap to use and causes no harm to the environment.
There are very few situations in which a
mother can’t breastfeed, according to WHO, as long as she is given the support
and knowledge to work with.
Many Australian hospitals and Doctors
now follow WABA guidelines to encourage new mothers to breastfeed. By showing
them how and explaining how breast milk is the best choice for the baby, medical
personal give the mothers reason to try
Wider community acceptance is also
required. There is nothing shameful or improper about a mother suckling her
child; yet Australian mothers are sometimes subjected to dirty looks and unkind
remarks if they feed in front of others. Family members often criticise the
mother, too, if she chooses to feed an older child or feeds one child during
WBW is about sharing the knowledge so
that more people will appreciate the importance of what these women are doing.
Next time you see a breastfeeding Mum,
why not give her a smile or a word of encouragement? It will make her feel good
about what she is doing and is a great start to supporting global breastfeeding.
was written by Tash Hughes from Word
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