Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Cape Town has been hard at work on its "breast-feeding restoration plan"‚ which includes addressing perceptions of breast-feeding in public. Last year a Cape Town mother was told to leave a well-known clothing retailer when she breast-fed her baby. When she left she claimed staff mocked her. Her story prompted public outcry.

On Wednesday, the Western Cape Department of Health will be celebrating the "human milk banking week" with a "breast express" event where women will hand express milk for donation. According to the department, SA’s exclusive breast-feeding rate is 8% — way below the world average of 38%.

"Breast milk acts as a natural vaccine that protects babies from infections‚ allergies and diarrhoea, among other things. Cape Town has been working hard on its breast-feeding restoration plan over the past few years‚" said mayoral committee member JP Smith. "The plan is designed to ensure that all city policies and guidelines are in line with the strategy to promote‚ protect and support breast-feeding; training health workers to properly implement best practice; and addressing perceptions about breast-feeding in public."

Mothers will be bussed to the event from places such as the Bishop Lavis Midwife Obstetric Unit and the Gugulethu Midwife Obstetrics Unit.

"The best thing women can do is to offer their newborn babies the number one nutritional supplement‚" said health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo.

In 2012, the city hosted an event where 1‚549 women gathered to breast-feed their babies together. This year, at a ceremony at the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis encouraged women to breast-feed their children at church. "The ceremony is a little long‚ someone’s crying because he’s hungry‚" the Pope reportedly said. "You mothers‚ go ahead and breast-feed‚ without fear."

According to the Human Milk Banking Association of SA‚ the benefits of breast milk for babies are that:

• It passes immunity from the mother to the infant

• It provides optimal nutrition for the first six months of life‚ as it meets all the nutritional requirements

• It helps mature the gastro-intestinal tract, decreasing the risk of diarrhoea

• It decreases respiratory‚ ear and digestive tract infections

• It promotes better cognitive development

• It decreases the risk of the baby developing food allergies

• It plays an important role in jaw and speech development

• Breast-fed infants are less likely to be overfed

• It provides endorphins‚ which makes the infant happy and relaxed

• It acts as an analgesic

• It creates a special bond between the mother and infant

• It has many long-term health benefits‚ such as reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes

The benefits to mothers are that it:

• Promotes the contraction of the uterus‚ helping it to return to pre-pregnancy size

• Is convenient and economical

• Increases the energy needs of the mother and aids in post-pregnancy weight loss

• Decreases the risk of ovarian and pre-menopausal breast cancer

• Decreases the risk of osteoporosis

• Releases prolactin‚ which is a "mothering" hormone [that aids in milk production]

• Creates a special bond between the mother and infant

TMG Digital

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