With breastfeeding awareness week recently taking place, the City of Cape Town is expressing its desire to help increase the overall breastfeeding rate.
With World Breastfeeding Week looking to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding, the City of Cape Town and its Health Department has embarked on an initiative to help. The city wants to help increase breastfeeding rates to reach the World Health’s Organisation (WHO) target of 50%.
Currently, the City’s clinics are reporting a rate of just under 40% of babies being exclusively breastfed.
According to the city, it will continue to and has been creating breastfeeding corners at clinics. City Health is also launching the breastfeeding initiative in all clinics and Community Day Centres. An inaugural event will be held at the Langa clinic on 17 August.
The department will also be recruiting and training infant feeding counsellors (IFC) at clinics. These individuals will be specifically tasked with assisting mothers as they learn to feed their infants.
The City has urged parents to remember that a child’s health is most vulnerable during the first 1000 days of its life.
“This period, from conception until a child’s second birthday, offers a unique window of opportunity to shape healthier and more prosperous futures. The right nutrition during this 1 000-day window can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to develop and learn. Breastfeeding is one of the key interventions for building the foundation of healthy development during this period,” the city said in a statement.
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of an infant’s life. With the global breastfeeding rate at 40%. The WHO has set the “at least 50%” target to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding by 2025.
In SA, things have been particularly bad. The rate has increased from just 8% in 2008 to 32% in 2016%.
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith, says Cape Town is slowly making progress.
“Not all mothers are able to breastfeed because of health reasons and we have to be mindful of that. For those who are, there are a number of factors that bedevil progress. This includes the social stigma associated with breastfeeding, particularly in public, but also the lack of support in some workplaces for mothers who need to express milk after their return from maternity leave.”
Breastfeeding also improves long-term health, decreases the risk of non-communicable diseases, including childhood asthma and obesity. It can reduce the chance of diabetes and heart disease later in life. The longer duration of breastfeeding protects maternal health as well, and helps reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.