Mother Support: Going for the Gold

Bermuda Hospitals Board and La Leche League Urge Exclusive Breastfeeding for the First Six Months

Bermuda Hospitals Board and La Leche League of Bermuda (LLL) will join over 120 countries celebrating World Breastfeeding Week by hosting an Open House on August 4 at the Maternity Ward of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital from 10:00am to 2:00pm.

This year’s theme, Mother Support: Going for the Gold calls for supporting mothers in achieving the gold standard of infant feeding, as recommended by the World Health Organization: exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. In addition, WHO recommends women continue to nurse, together with complementary foods, for up to two years and beyond.

“We know babies who are breastfed according to WHO guidelines are healthier,” said Christine Virgil, Acting Programme Manager for the Maternal Child Programme. “They have lower risks of respiratory illness, digestive distress, ear infections and allergies. And babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months have lower rates of obesity, diabetes and cardiac disease both in childhood and as adults. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in women.”

Lena Ostroff, Chairperson for La Leche League, a registered charity, said, “While many mothers intend to nurse their babies, we know breastfeeding rates in Bermuda are very low. And the number of women in our community exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months is less than 1%. This directly translates into higher incidences of illness among our infants and children and increased healthcare costs for all of us.”

Common reasons why women do not succeed in nursing their babies include a lack of support, inconsistent information, the need to return to work and overcoming doubts about the ability to breastfeed.

“Partnering with the hospital to promote and protect breastfeeding in Bermuda is an excellent first step toward helping mothers get off to a good start,” said Ms. Ostroff. “By working together, we can increase breastfeeding rates.”

Expectant parents, mothers, babies and healthcare providers are invited to attend the Open House and meet with representatives from both the maternity ward and LLL, who will be available to answer breastfeeding questions and address concerns.

“When mothers receive accurate and consistent information from healthcare providers, support from community resources and encouragement from relatives and friends, breastfeeding rates increase,” adds Mrs. Virgil. “Everyone benefits when mothers are supported in achieving the gold standard in infant feeding.”

Other activities scheduled for the week include:
• Photo exhibit at Rock Island Coffee presented by LLL on the benefits of breastfeeding
• Infant T-shirt give-aways to breastfeeding women on the maternity ward

Notes to Editors:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have proposed four areas of successful breastfeeding support:
• Healthcare systems can support women through woman-centred care, humanistic treatment of each mother-child relationship and attention to policies that impact this relationship.
• Health worker education can support women directly through skilled and informed practices and humane, culturally sensitive practices.
• The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions supports women by disallowing false and misleading marketing.
• Community mobilisation, especially mother-to-mother and other peer support, both empowers and informs women.

Breastfeeding provides the best possible start in life in all areas of development. Even in developed countries, lack of breastfeeding is associated with an increase risk to the survival and health of babies.

Artificial feeding is associated with a higher rate of deaths in babies. Early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding can save more than one million babies globally.

Compared with children who are exclusively breastfed, those who are artificially fed have poorer health, higher mortality rates and lower IQ scores.

Mothers and communities also benefit when babies are breastfed. Breast cancer is more common in mothers who either haven’t breastfed or breastfed for a short time.

Exclusive breastfeeding leads to decreased economic cost for families, communities, the health system and the environment.

About La Leche League
La Leche League of Bermuda (LLL), a registered charity, has assisted thousands of women and their families in Bermuda since 1987 by offering information, encouragement and support for breastfeeding. Affiliated with La Leche League International (LLLI), the local Group is fully funded by donations from within Bermuda and offers services without charge, provided by accredited Leaders. LLL promotes and protects breastfeeding through monthly support meetings, a home visit service, information sharing with healthcare professionals and a telephone help line. Breastfeeding assistance is available by calling 737-4577.

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