Minister presents Bermuda’s Breastfeeding Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals

Minister of Health, The Hon. Zane De Silva today presented Bermuda’s first-ever Breastfeeding Guidelines for Healthy Infants to healthcare professionals on behalf of the Department of Health, Well Bermuda, Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) and La Leche League (LLL).

Coinciding with Breastfeeding Awareness Month, which is celebrated globally in August, the presentation of these new guidelines will provide healthcare professionals with accurate and updated information for assisting mothers choosing to nurse their babies.

The Dept. of Health, BHB and LLL have been working together for several years to increase breastfeeding rates in our community, which are currently very low. The World Health Organization and healthcare professionals in Bermuda recommend babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Currently, less than 1% of women in Bermuda follow these recommendations.

Minister De Silva, MP, JP, said: “The introduction of guidelines for healthcare providers will pave the way for new mothers to receive the consistent support and information whether it is from midwives at the hospital, their primary care physician, staff at government clinics or visiting home nurses. We know breastfeeding protects babies from illness, lowers cancer risks for mothers, reduces healthcare costs for communities, provides financial savings for parents and has a positive impact on the environment. Increasing breastfeeding rates on our Island will benefit families and contribute to a healthier Bermuda.”

Dr. Cheryl Peek-Ball, Senior Medical Officer for the Department of Health said: “Our goal is for the entire healthcare community to communicate simple and consistent messages to new mothers and to empower women to breastfeed successfully for at least the first six months of their babies’ lives. These guidelines serve as a valuable tool for medical professionals who help women overcome initial challenges.”

Christine Virgil, Clinical Director for BHB’s Maternal/Child Service, said: “The maternity unit is committed to providing quality care aligned with best practice standards and international recommendations. Our nurse midwives play a vital role in helping women get off to a good start in the early days after giving birth and we welcome the presentation of these guidelines.”

Melony Kendell, Accredited La Leche League Leader and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, said: “”We are thrilled Bermuda has these Breastfeeding Guidelines and is now following WHO recommendations by having a current and updated breastfeeding policy. We encourage women to give their babies the best beginning by nursing and to seek assistance, if they are facing difficulties. We also urge family members, friends and employers to support nursing mothers- increasing our breastfeeding rates benefits everyone.”

In addition to promoting optimal growth and development for babies, breastfeeding provides many short and long-term health benefits for mothers. Women who nurse their babies reduce their risk factors for three of the most serious diseases that affect women: female cancers, heart disease and osteoporosis.

Women should contact a healthcare provider if they are having problems. “With the introduction of these guidelines, now more than ever, women should receive the help they need if they experience challenges,” concludes Dr. Peek-Ball. For breastfeeding assistance, women may contact LLL at 236-1120, the Maternal Health and Family Planning Clinic at 278-6475 or the Maternity team at 239-1325.

The hospital and Dept. of Health have set up displays featuring highlights from the Breastfeeding Guidelines. Stop by the lobby at KEMH or visit the Victoria St. Clinic to view the campaign posters.

Breastfeeding Guidelines for Healthy Infants may be accessed at the Bermuda Government website at www.health.gov.bm

Attachment 1: Click here for Breastfeeding Guidelines

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