“Mother Support: going for the gold” is the theme of this year ’s World Breastfeeding Week holding during the first week of August in 120 countries. It coincides with the Olympic Games taking place at the same time in Beijing. As multinational athletes compete for the “gold ” medal , breastfeeding enthusiasts around the world encourage society to support breastfeeding mothers so that our children can “ go for the gold” in their life by achieving their full potential.
Breastfeeding is the best start in every child’s life as it is the “ gold standard” of infant feeding : breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and giving appropriate complementary foods with continue breastfeeding for up to 2 years or beyond.
“ In the battle to eradicate poverty, one small step would be to ensure that every newborn is breastfed. This would provide the best nutrition ,the greatest infection protection ,the most illness prevention, and the greatest food security and psychological protection for the infant.” Ruth A Lawrence, MD 2007
It is not an easy task for mothers to continue breastfeeding while returning to work when the babies are just 3 to 4 months old. They have to plan meticulously for their daily life from where to find child care givers to when and how to pump and store breast milk during working hours. If their will to breastfeed is not strong enough , and without support from every part of society, breastfeeding period will be shorten unnecessarily.
In time of economic hardship society as a whole need to understand that helping mothers to breastfeed will save the money both at the household and national level. One country ,Norway, accounts for human milk production in its national food statistics. In 1992 Norwegian milk production : 8.2 million kilograms worth over 400 million US dollars. ( milk bank price 50 US dollars per litre).Average breast milk production per child : 234 litres in the first year and 111 litres in the second year.
Have we ever considered there are real costs we have to pay for “not breastfeeding”?
-Costs of purchasing milk substitutes, bottles, cleaning supplies plus transport , storage, heating and cleaning equipment.
-Costs of health care because “ not breastfeeding” infants get sick more often and at an earlier age. For example ,the acute infection of the middle ear is significantly lower in breastfed infants.
-Costs to workers and employers because working parents’ rate of one-day absences may double when babies are not breastfed.
At the national level, nation save costs of importing milk substitutes, marketing , transport and storage. Reduce greenhouse gas from farming, costs to dispose of packaging and other environmental burdens. The government save costs of sick children hospitalization. Employers and national economy benefit from higher productivity and employee loyalty, lower turn over rates.
Support from all sections of society : everyone can help
Healthcare workers give skilled and practical help starting from pregnancy , during labor and immediately after birth. Family members who understand the importance of breast milk encourage the mothers during the first few days .After going home they provide nutrition for the mothers and help with other chores in the house. Childcare givers both in the home and in day care nursery can warm and give breast milk by cup feeding or bottle .It may take a little bit of time before the babies settle into routine. Employers and co-workers who understand that breastfeeding mothers need time to express their milk provide time and space to collect and store breast milk. Hospitals , department stores , schools and other public places set some corners or rooms for breastfeeding mothers . Doctors and nurses are influential in encouraging or discouraging mothers during well baby visits. They have to update their knowledge about medications during lactation, exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months and growths of breastfed children. In all , everyone appreciate breastfeeding mothers wherever they meet one – a smile , a word or an act of support will make a lot of differences.
“ The ability of any society to maintain current or potential production levels of breast milk depends on a supportive breastfeeding culture and institutions”