Published On: Wed, Aug 10th, 2016

Why breastfeeding in South Africa still needs champions

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peakabooBreastfeeding has been proven to protect the health of mothers and babies. It naturally inoculates babies against disease because the mother’s immune system kick starts the baby’s ability to resist illness. This applies in both low-income and high-income settings.

For mothers, breastfeeding is also good. It is a natural contraceptive because it interrupts the menstrual cycle, and it protects women against breast and ovarian cancer.

Despite all these benefits, only 38% of babies are exclusively breastfed across the world.

A number of initiatives have been put in place to turn this situation around. One of these is the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, a UNICEF and World Health Organisation scheme launched in 1991. The idea was to make sure that all maternity wards, whether free standing or in a hospital, became centres of breastfeeding support.

Since its launch, more than 152 countries have signed up to the initiative. And by 2012 more than 21 300 facilities were designated baby friendly. This is close to 30% of all facilities worldwide and 31% of facilities in low and middle income countries.

But of the 152 countries, only 18 have reported setting up a government committee to direct and enforce the initiative. more