New campaign shows breast is best

A fresh campaign has been launched to encourage mothers in Abu Dhabi to breastfeed newborns.

In light of statistics that only 37 percent of mothers continued the practice after six months, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) has introduced a new initiative to show families that breast is best and give them the support they need to continue.

The drive is the latest part of the Enaya initiative launched in 2013, which focuses on promoting awareness on issues from preconception to pregnancy and beyond.

The new scheme will be devoted to educating families on the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as achieving a balance between work and nursing, plus increasing the number of baby-friendly hospitals in the capital. A baby-friendly hospital is defined by the World Health Organisation as a hospital that protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding.

Marina Varghese, a lactation consultant from the Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women and Children cited a lack of awareness as a reason why women give up breastfeeding early in the region: “Initially we have a high uptake of breastfeeding here,” she reflected, “but it’s around six months when women stop breastfeeding due to a lack of education”.

“There’s a big belief here that formula-feeding is more beneficial, which isn’t true,” she added.

The benefits of breastfeeding over using the bottle are well known, but what many mums don’t know is that there are advantages in it for them as well as their baby.

“For women, breastfeeding can lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancer,” said Marina. “It can also reduce the risk of type two diabetes.”

As for baby, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of obesity and allergies such as asthma, and studies have also shown that it can give an IQ boost.

While some might fear cultural sensitivities, there are no laws dictating that a woman cannot nurse in public in the UAE.

As a mum herself, Meg from community group Abu Dhabi Mums has found the region supportive towards the cause: “I see a lot more people breastfeeding here than I do in my home country, and have always felt very comfortable and unremarkable breastfeeding in public,” she said. “When babies are welcome everywhere, it’s much easier to breastfeed.”

“The most important thing is that mothers are helped and supported. This means access to lactation consultants and breastfeeding clinics in the days and weeks after birth,” Meg added.

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