Women’s Hospital promotes the benefits of breastfeeding
Women’s Hospital (WH), a member of Hamad Medical Corporation, is highlighting the significant health benefits of breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding Week, which is being celebrated from 1 to 7 August. This year’s global theme highlights how breastfeeding is a key element in getting us to think about how to value our wellbeing from the start of life.
Dr. Amal Abu Bakr, Lead Lactation Consultant and Chairperson of the Breastfeeding Committee at WH said, “The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed (without water, herbs, other milk or food) starting within one hour after a baby’s birth for at least six months.
Dr. Abu Bakr added that breastfeeding is an ideal and complete form of nutrition for infants up to six months of age, and also affirms the WHO recommendation that breastfeeding should continue for up to two years of age with the addition of timely, healthy supplementary food.
Speaking from her personal experience, Najla Alkuwari, a young Qatari mother of three said, “What I learned during my pregnancies is that I didn’t need to supplement my breast milk with formula. I also learned that the traditional methods practiced by my mother and her mother of feeding a baby date water or herbal water to help ease constipation or gas is not beneficial and may hinder successful breastfeeding. Older generations may believe a mother’s breastmilk alone isn’t enough, but I never found that to be true.”
According to Dr. Abu Bakr, “Introducing any other supplements during the first six months especially, can make it very difficult for a woman to exclusively breastfeed, it can reduce a mother’s milk supply and if a baby is fed with a bottle it will likely cause nipple confusion. As a result, women may give in to frustration and give up on breastfeeding too early.”
With her first child, Najla surpassed her goal of six months and went on to breastfeed until she got pregnant with her second child. During this time, she shared information with her mother about what she was learning and set up a breastfeeding support group on social media with her family and friends.
“The older generation recognizes that breastfeeding is good, but they also think babies need formula to sleep well at night and believes that a mother’s milk may be lacking in nutrients. As I learned more factual information about breastmilk, I made it my mission to share the information so that I could help educate others,” she added.
According to Dr. Abu Bakr, breastmilk is full of living cells, hormones and antibodies that provide protective immunity against infections and chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and childhood leukemia.
“Breastmilk contains all the nutrients that are needed for the child’s optimal growth and development. The cholesterol and fatty acids in breast milk are scientifically proven to promote higher intelligence in children,” said Dr. Abu Bakr.
“Formula milk lacks the nutrients, hormones and antibodies present in mother’s milk,” Dr. Abu Bakr elaborated. “It is also more difficult to digest as it changes good microbes in the baby’s digestive system to bad ones, and is more likely to cause negative reactions such as constipation, gas pain and colic, a frustrating condition marked by predictable periods of significant distress in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby.”
Scientific evidence also proves that breastfeeding is beneficial to a mother’s physical and emotional health. Breastfeeding strengthens the bond between mother and child, aids in postpartum recovery, reduces the risk of postpartum bleeding, anemia, breast and ovarian cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis during menopause. There is also less postpartum anxiety and depression among breastfeeding mothers compared with those who do not breastfeed.
“It is important to recognize that every woman’s situation is different and that some may not be able to exclusively breastfeed, but they shouldn’t be afraid to try. Breastfeeding in public or going back to work can be difficult challenges, but there are ways to overcome these obstacles,” Dr. Abu Bakr said.
“When breastfeeding in public, I was able to do so using the women’s prayer room, change room or a cover up. When friends tell me about their difficulties going back to work only two short months after giving birth, I recommend that they tell their employer in advance that they need a clean, sanitary space to pump their breastmilk at work, so that they can keep up their supply and provide an adequate amount of breast milk for their babies while they are away,” said Najla.
“We need to work together to encourage mothers to breastfeed,” said Dr. Abu Bakr. “Our aim is to partner with women like Najla to support our public awareness and education programs which provide factual information about how breastfeeding can promote wellness for both mothers and their babies.”
As part of her ongoing efforts, Dr. Abu Bakr runs a daily breastfeeding clinic from 9am to11:30am in the Outpatient Department of Women’s Hospital. Alongside other staff, she will be running an awareness and advocacy day on Sunday, 7 August to honor breastfeeding week.
Hamad Medical Corporation
Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is the main provider of secondary and tertiary healthcare in Qatar and one of the leading hospital providers in the Middle East.
For more than four decades, HMC has been dedicated to delivering the safest, most effective and compassionate care to all its patients.
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