Breastfeeding for a Happier, Healthier Region

In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week (WBFW), August 1-7, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), encourages mothers to see breastfeeding as the normal way of nourishing their babies from the first hour of their birth (initiation) to at least six months after, with continued breastfeeding up to age two along with complementary food. 

The theme given by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action for this year’s WBFW is Breastfeeding – a winning goal for life.  This is in keeping with CARPHA’s life course approach for the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) of which breastfeeding is a key factor.   The call for mothers to breastfeed can also be seen as a response to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which speaks to a reduction in child mortality and improving maternal health.

The benefits of breastfeeding are many for both mother and baby - a mother’s breast milk is specifically suited to her baby, providing protection against infections and illness, including ear infections, diarrhea, and pneumonia.

Breastfeeding can also help to prevent childhood obesity and maternal obesity, which are important risk factors for type 2 diabetes.  Children are also less likely to develop asthma, hypertension and other non-communicable diseases. According to Dr. C. James Hospedales, Executive Director of CARPHA, “Supporting breastfeeding now can be seen as a long term strategy for a more productive and healthier region”.

Stopping breastfeeding too early, and introducing other foods into baby’s diet at the wrong time remain the greatest threat to a child’s health. In the Caribbean, breastfeeding within the first hour of birth is high, providing what is considered the baby’s first immunization.  However, statistics show that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months vary between 5 percent and 39 percent.  If we are to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and other NCDs later in life, mothers should try to feed their babies exclusively on breast milk for the first six months of life.  

The WHO Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices aims to renew efforts to promote, protect and support appropriate infant and young child feeding. Based on this strategy governments are asked to develop and implement comprehensive policies on infant and young child feeding of which the implementation of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is important.

CARPHA therefore supports breastfeeding as a winning goal for life as it will make for a happier, healthier Region.

 



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