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Friday 7 August, 2020

CARPHA: Support breastfeeding for healthier planet

Across the Caribbean, while breastfeeding initiation within the first hour of birth is fairly high, continued exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months only stands at 39 percent.

This from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) as it stressed the importance of breastfeeding for both the child and mother.

CARPHA advocated for breastfeeding on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, observed August 1-7. This year’s theme is Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planetwhich is aligned with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-being. 

The theme focuses on the impact of infant feeding on the environment in this era of climate change and the importance of promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding to ensure and maintain good health. 

Breastfeeding provides a healthy, non-polluting, sustainable and natural source of nutrition, and also provides a great way for mothers to bond with their babies. 

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for a new baby, providing antibodies which protect against allergy and infection, and Vitamin A which safeguards against eye disease.  As the baby’s first immunity, breast milk also helps prevent jaundice and contains fats that are necessary for brain development. 

Mothers who breastfeed have lower rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. 

Breastfeeding can also help to prevent childhood obesity and maternal obesity, which are important risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. 

Ending breastfeeding too early and introducing other foods into baby’s diet at the wrong time can jeopardise a child’s health, CARPHA warned.  

CARPHA encouraged mothers to try to feed their babies exclusively on breast milk for the first six months of life, as it said this effort would aid in the reduction of childhood obesity and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) later on.

Meanwhile, CARPHA also addressed concerns new and expectant mothers may have about breastfeeding and the transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to their babies.

CARPHA said there is no evidence to date of COVID-19 presence in breast milk or transmission via breast milk. 

Due to the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding, and the negative effects of stopping it, CARPHA recommended that mothers continue to breastfeed.

World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated during the first week of August every year since 1992.  It aims to highlight the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding to both baby and mother as well as to reinforce the importance of maternal health on infant nutrition and health and the reduction in poverty and food insecurity. WBW is a global campaign to raise awareness and stimulate action on themes related to breastfeeding.

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