JIS News

The Ministry of Health is encouraging mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of their lives.
Over the years, there has been a decline in breastfeeding for a myriad of reasons, including the cessation of extensive breastfeeding campaigns; mothers, who are young themselves not passing on the importance of breastfeeding to their expectant daughters; and the availability of baby formula as a substitute for breast milk.
Yvonne Davis, a Nutritionist attached to the St. James Health Department, told JIS News there were also mothers that simply did not want to spend the time to breastfeed. “Many are not convinced of the benefits of breastfeeding. Until they are convinced of the benefits, they are not going to try it,” she said.
She further noted that while 90 per cent of mothers initiated breastfeeding at the time of birth, most did not sustain breastfeeding by the time their babies were six week old. “By the time babies are six weeks old, mothers start introducing other foodstuff while breastfeeding. The stomachs of babies are not ready to digest the other food. Mothers need to wait until the baby is ready for it and six months is the right time,” she pointed out.
As a result, she said, babies were not getting all the nutritional benefits that could be received if they were exclusively breastfed.
Some of the benefits, Ms. Davis mentioned, include the provision of all the necessary nourishment that babies require to grow healthy. “The antibodies that are found in the mother’s milk provides protection for the child against certain infections,” she pointed out.
She also added that babies, who were exclusively breastfed, rarely suffered from diarrhoea, colic and constipation, among other ailments.
There were also benefits for the mother, she said. “Breastfeeding helps her too. It protects her from cervical and breast cancers and also helps her to take off the weight gained during pregnancy and also helps in a lot of other ways,” Ms. Davis said. Meanwhile, National Breastfeeding Week will be observed from September 18-24 under the theme ‘Breast and Family Foods: Loving and Healthy’.
Several activities have been planned in the parish of St. James in observance of the week, which will kick off with church service on September 18 at the St. John’s Methodist Church on Humber Avenue in Montego Bay, commencing at 9:00 a.m.
Representatives from the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) are expected to be in attendance.
An official launch and health exposition is scheduled to take place at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Mount Salem on September 19 starting at 10:00 a.m.
On September 23, the public is being invited to attend a Breastfeeding Showcase at the Montego Bay Type V Health Centre from 10:00 a.m. to noon.There will be displays and demonstrations as well as a breastfeeding competition.
Breastfeeding Week is celebrated internationally. While most countries usually observe it in the first week of August, Jamaica has opted to celebrate it in the third week in September so as to prevent a clash with Emancipation and Independence activities.
Breastfeeding Week has been celebrated for more than a decade and is a collaborative effort with the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.

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