JUST right after the celebration of the Nutrition Month last July, the World Breastfeeding Week is now being celebrated from August 1 to 7. The annual celebration seeks to encourage the practice of breastfeeding towards the goal of improving the health of babies around the world.
This year’s celebration focuses on strengthening and promoting “family-friendly policies to enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children in early life, when it matters most.”
According to the World Health Organization or WHO, these policies include the enactments of “paid maternity leave for a minimum of 18 weeks, and paid paternity leave to encourage shared responsibility of caring for their children on an equal basis.”
At the same time, policies that allow mothers to work in a parent-friendly workplace to protect and support their ability to continue breastfeeding upon return to work by having access to breastfeeding breaks; a safe, private, and hygienic space for expressing and storing breastmilk; and affordable childcare.
Under the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law, working mothers are given 105 days of paid maternity leave credits, with 7 days transferable to fathers and single mothers are given an additional 15 days of paid leave.
This maternity leave will allow mothers to breastfeed their babies regularly until six months or beyond. In fact, WHO recommends “that a new mother should have at least 16 weeks of absence from work after delivery, to be able to rest and breastfeed her child.” This is why breastfeeding stations at workplaces are also recommended to allow working mothers to be able to express and store their milk while at work.
As a mom to two adorable boys, I have practiced breastfeeding most especially during the first few days of my baby to provide him “colostrum,” or the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy. WHO highly recommends this as “the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth,” as it contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses - such as diarrhea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide.
Aside from the benefits it gives to infants, breastfeeding is also a healthy practice for mothers. It is believed to cause menstruation to stop and serves as a natural and safe method of birth control, although caution is still needed as it is not fail-safe. Other advantages for breastfeeding mothers include the reduction of risks of breast and ovarian cancers and helps women to lose weight gained during the pregnancy.
For first-time mothers, breastfeeding needs to be learned and done properly. Difficulties at the beginning such as intolerable nipple pain, lack of sufficient knowledge on how to breastfeed properly, and fear that there is not enough milk are all common, but should not hinder mothers to continue breastfeeding. If both the mother and the baby experience discomfort while breastfeeding, it is recommended that breast pumps be used and the milk be fed using bottles.
Advocacy groups have continued to encourage mothers to practice breastfeeding through various efforts such as conducting lecture sessions and forums to provide the much-needed information about breastfeeding, workshops and other activities that help mothers be aware of the many benefits they can get from breastfeeding.
Commercial establishments such as malls have also joined in the advocacy campaign by providing breastfeeding stations where mothers and babies can breastfeed comfortably while shopping at the mall.
Breastfeeding is a vital, life-saving goal. Let us all protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.