South African mothers called on to breastfeed more
ADVISORY: This article contains a video which may upset sensitive viewers.
Finding out that you are pregnant can be one of the happiest times for a woman. Going through the motion of the pregnancy and the person growing inside you may be challenging, but you can’t wait to hold the baby in your arms. When a baby is in the mother’s womb, they connect through the umbilical cord. When a baby is born that connection is cut so the two have to bond in a different way, that way is through breastfeeding.
For me, the well-being of an infant is most important because it is the foundation for their life- and I know a lot of mothers who share the same sentiment.
As a mother, I know how overwhelming it is when your little one cries every two seconds for “no reason”. My daughter was the worst; she was such a cry baby! She’d have her nappy changed, bathed and cared for, but she cried still! She literally slept for 2 hours and would then wake up, day and night. I often asked her – kanti ung’funani?? (What do you want from me?) as I held back tears in the middle of the night.
Everyone around advised me to feed her solids because she was hungry. I did that with my son, who is older now. He’d keep quiet and sleep for hours after eating but it was not good for his health. He’d be constipated for days and struggle with his bowel movements. I didn’t want my daughter to experience the same thing.
Unfortunately, research has shown that South African mothers don’t breastfeed enough. In fact, we have the lowest rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the world. According to the recent data, only 8% of infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed and a further 19% are almost exclusively breastfed with an addition of water only.
What is Exclusive breastfeeding?
Exclusive breastfeeding refers to when the infant receives only breast milk. No other liquids or solids are given – not even water – with the exception of an oral rehydration solution, or drops/syrups of vitamins, minerals or medicines.
Let us look at breastfeeding benefits for mothers
- Breastfeeding helps prevent breast and ovarian cancer.
- It is a natural contraceptive because it interrupts the menstrual cycle.
- It makes the bond between mom and baby stronger.
- It’s more likely that neither you or the baby will become obese if you breastfeed.
Breastfeeding benefits for children
- Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria.
- Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies.
- Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea.
These are just a few, for more benefits visit the World Health Organisation’s website.
What needs to be done?
A lot of initiatives have been put in place to turn things around. For example, governments across the globe have introduced the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative – where new mothers are taught all they need to know about breastfeeding. The question is are these kinds of initiatives enough? I personally believe that although governments and world bodies can create a conducive environment to what is best for our children it is a mother’s choice to breastfeed and the responsibility for that choice ultimately lies with her.
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