World Breastfeeding Month Aims to Increase Island’s Rates

The Department of Health, Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) and La Leche League (LLL) will mark World Breastfeeding Month throughout August. The three organizations have been working together over the past year 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.

Efforts to increase the Island’s rates include ratifying a national breastfeeding policy, opening a pumping room at the hospital for staff members and sponsoring the island’s first-ever Breastfed Baby Photo Exhibit.

The Honourable Minister Walter Roban, MP, JP, said: “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 Director for the Department of Health said: “There is currently a multi-disciplinary team effort to establish a concise set of breastfeeding guidelines for use by healthcare workers who counsel expectant and new mothers about breastfeeding. The goal of the multi-disciplinary team is to establish a few basic breastfeeding guidelines on which there is general consensus and which will communicate simple and consistent messages to new mothers. As always, the aim is to empower women to breastfeed successfully for at least the first six months of their babies’ lives. It is expected these breastfeeding guidelines will be shared with the community in the next few months.”

Christine Virgil, Clinical Director for BHB’s Maternal/Child Service, said: “As the second largest employer in Bermuda, the hospital is pleased to announce that next month, we will open a quiet and private space on Gosling Ward where female staff members returning to work can express milk. Supporting employees who choose to breastfeed is in line with our commitment to be the first choice for health and wellness, not just for the community, but for our staff, as well.”

Melony Kendell, Accredited La Leche League Leader said: “We are thrilled over 225 photos were submitted to the first-ever Breastfed Baby Photo Exhibit, opening Friday evening, 13 August at Bermuda Society of the Arts (BSoA) in City Hall. We hope the public will support this project by attending the opening. We also urge families to encourage new mothers to nurse their infants. It really takes a village to support breastfeeding. Fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and friends all play an important role in helping women through the early days and weeks with a newborn. With a proper support network, women can breastfeed. We urge moms to ask for help if they are facing difficulties.”

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 are encouraged to contact healthcare providers if they are having problems with breastfeeding. “With accurate information, women can successfully nurse their babies,” 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 has set up a display in the lobby, running through 12 August, featuring selected photos from the Breastfed Baby Photo Exhibit. The Exhibit, sponsored by the Dept of Health, BHB and LLL, opens on 13 August at BSoA, between 5:00pm and 7:00pm and runs through 31 August.

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 236-1120

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