World Breastfeeding Week, an annual campaign run by the World Health Organisation (WHO), takes place from 1 to 7 August. According to numerous studies, breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways of reducing child deaths and promoting healthy development. Beyond that, it has been found to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type two diabetes and depression amongst mothers.
“Breastmilk has the ideal nutrition for babies and it helps to prevent illness and infant death, as it contains key antibodies. For moms, it aids with recovery after birth and strengthens the bond with their child,” says Dr Howard Manyonga, an obstetrician and Head of The Birthing Team, a programme in which maternity care and antenatal education is delivered by teams of healthcare professionals.
“Having teams that can provide quality medical services, as well as patient education and follow-ups after birth, is central to how we work – holistic care plans and ensuring moms have the right information is best practice medicine,” he says.
In line with WHO guidelines, Manyonga recommends that breastfeeding starts within an hour after birth and that babies are given breastmilk exclusively at first; “Babies need nothing else except breast milk for the first six months of life, not even water or juice. After that, solid foods can be introduced – but breastmilk should continue to be a part of a babies’ diet for two years or longer.”
In addition, skin-to-skin contact is recommended as it supports babies’ latching correctly and bonding between mother and child. “Almost all women are able to breastfeed, provided they are given the right information and support. The over-use of bottles and dummies is discouraged,” says Manyonga. “Antenatal classes are important for ensuring that women have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and that they are equipped to give their baby the best chance at development.”
At the classes included in The Birthing Team’s programme, women are taught about the benefits of breastfeeding, different methods and positions to try, and how to identify a problem with the babies’ latching.
The Birthing Team’s programme incentivises quality prenatal care and education by charging a set fee that covers all necessary scans, tests, antenatal classes and medications from 12 weeks of pregnancy to six weeks after delivery. Most patients do not have medical aid, and pay around R20 999 for the complete programme, inclusive of delivery in a private hospital. It is currently operational at the Netcare Rand Clinic in Johannesburg, the Femina Hospital in Pretoria and JMH City Hospital in Durban.
Facts about breastfeeding:
• Babies that are exclusively breastfed for the first six months have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhoea.
• Breastmilk contains antibodies that help prevent common childhood illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia.
• Women who are HIV positive and on anti-retrovirals can safely breastfeed their babies without transmitting the virus.
• The health benefits of breastfeeding lasts well into adulthood – effecting both physical growth and brain development.
Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications
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Distributed on behalf of The Birthing Team
Head of The Birthing Team: Dr Howard Manyonga