“Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support”.
All mothers should be supported to initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth, within the first hour after delivery and should receive practical support to enable them to initiate and establish breastfeeding and manage common breastfeeding difficulties. Yet current birthing practices and lack of support in the postnatal period interfere with this aim.
Whether a woman breastfeeds her baby—or not—can affect the lifelong health of both her and her baby.
Breastfeeding is the normal biological extension of pregnancy and childbirth. Breast feeding is protective of many chronic diseases and of maternal neglect.
Breastfeeding provides the baby with good immune system protection, gut protection, protection against obesity and short- and long-term disease protection.
Breastfeeding also benefits the mother: her uterus returns to normal size more quickly after birth if she breastfeeds; she is less likely to experience postpartum depression; she is less likely to have brittle bones later in life. Every six months of breastfeeding cuts down a woman’s breast cancer risk.
One of the most common reasons for not establishing breastfeeding is the delay of the first breastfeed as a consequence of birth interventions and hospital protocols. Often mother and baby are separated, which means a delay in getting baby to breast. The baby is fed formula and imprints a teat rather than a nipple. The mother has to cope with pain, fatigue, possibly stress and the trauma of separation from her infant. All of which impact on successful breastfeeding.
As women wear the emotional burden when they do not breast feed, and given the fact that breastfeeding contributes both to the physical and economic health and welfare of women and their infants and society at large, not focussing on the impact of maternity care on breastfeeding is at a least misguided and at worst negligent.