Why is support crucial when it comes to breastfeeding?

How partnerships in the community can help mothers provide their newborns with the best start in life

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As World Breastfeeding Week is marked around the globe, a local women and children’s hospital is doing its part to support breastfeeding mothers.

Hosted from 1st to 7th August, this year’s World Breastfeeding Week focuses on Sustainable Partnerships, bringing together members of the community to achieve common goals.

Playing its part, the team at Danat Al Emarat will host English and Arabic talks offering advice to mothers on nutrition and answering common questions by experts.

Speaking about the importance of breastfeeding, the hospital’s specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, Dr Tina Steinbacher Kokalj, explains: “Breastfeeding protects a baby from infections and diseases. It’s perfectly designed for the baby, as it has all the important nutrients, vitamins and immunoglobulins.

“Breastfeeding decreases diarrhoea, vomiting and the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If a baby is breastfed for six months, it has a lower chance of getting childhood leukaemia or Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases later on in life.

“It increases the emotional bond between the mother and the baby.

“It also has benefits for the mother: it lowers the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis. Like the baby, the mum will also have a lower risk of getting cardiovascular diseases.”

According to the World Health Organization, babies should be exclusively breastfed until the age of six months, when you can begin to introduce solid foods while continuing to breastfeed, even until the child is two years old.

While the UAE’s three-month maternity leave policy may provide a challenge to new mothers, positive changes are being made across the board.

According to a survey by mother and childcare brand Philips Avent, 49 percent of mothers revealed that they lack support from their employers, while 61 percent were unaware that UAE law allows them to take breastfeeding or pumping breaks at work. Taking action, the company launched its Mommy’s Expressing Lounge campaign, which has seen some UAE companies implement baby-friendly spaces in offices.

Dr Tina also says attitudes are changing, with breastfeeding becoming more commonly accepted, and many public areas like malls offering private feeding areas for breastfeeding mothers.

Sustainable partnerships

While many new mums intend to breastfeed their babies, various obstacles can cause them to revert to formula milk, which has significantly fewer benefits to the baby than breast milk.

World Breastfeeding Week’s objective to create sustainable partnerships hopes to help new mothers overcome these challenges by providing support from various angles.

Working with new parents in Abu Dhabi, Dr Tina stresses the importance a father plays, and says many husbands are already taking the right steps.

“A lot of husbands ask me how to encourage their wives to breastfeed, since they can get quite fed up,” she explains. “They’re very aware of how breastfeeding in the first few months is important. They’re very helpful and also ask questions. The men here have started to be very supportive.”

Hospitals like Danat Al Emarat also have a role to play in providing necessary support and consultations to new parents and families. Across the country, many hospitals are taking positive steps in seeking baby-friendly accreditation while the UAE government continues to review its policies on maternity leave.

Danat Al Emarat’s World Breastfeeding Week talks take place on 3rd August (Arabic) and 6th August (English) from 10am to noon. To find out more, contact: 02 614 9999, danatalemarat.ae

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