Lack of knowledge persists about breastfeeding in UAE: lactation consultants

There are several benefits for both the baby and the mother

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Ashwani Kumar

Published: Tue 2 Aug 2022, 5:24 PM

Some new mothers have little or no information about breastfeeding and its benefits, said local lactation consultants during the World Breastfeeding Week.

“Lack of knowledge is a major concern. Most of the new mothers have no idea about breastfeeding,” opined Karine Poghosyan, International Board-certified lactation consultant at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Lactation consultants are certified healthcare professionals who help a new mother in breastfeeding.

Poghosyan pointed out that lack of family support is another issue in some cases, especially interfering grandparents.

“For the grandmothers, their grandchild is the most precious gift in this world and someone who needs to be constantly fed. So, some of them keep pushing for artificial milk.”

According to UNICEF and WHO, globally fewer than half of all newborn babies are breastfed in the first hour of life, leaving them more vulnerable to disease and death. Breastfeeding acts as a baby’s first vaccine, providing critical protection from diseases and death.

Karine Poghosyan at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi
Karine Poghosyan at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi

“We find that mothers and fathers lack any awareness on the importance of feeding breastmilk to a newborn. We have been helping them. Most of my patients would otherwise miss giving breast milk on the first day, especially the first hour after birth of their babies, which is the most important. Breastfeeding is the first vaccine from God to the baby,” Poghosyan underlined.

According to UNICEF and WHO, only 44 per cent of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life, short of the World Health Assembly target of 50 per cent by 2025.

“Apart from neonatologists, the support and awareness from the healthcare providers are also crucial. So, especially throughout this week, we have initiated different activities and campaigns,” Poghosyan noted.

‘Educate and support’

This year’s World Breastfeeding Week is being held under the theme: ‘Step up for breastfeeding: Educate and Support’.

Renita Suvares, lactation consultant, Aster Hospital, Qusais, stressed that successful breastfeeding requires some guidance, proper training, and support.

Renita Suvares
Renita Suvares

“Prenatal preparation is just as crucial for moms as postnatal education. It prepares her for what to expect after delivery and helps her make proper use of the initial time.”

She highlighted that knowledge is the key to reducing anxiety.

“When the mother has prior knowledge, it helps her to make informed decisions, relying on her instincts and taking out the guesswork rather than feeling overwhelmed by inconsistent and conflicting advice.”

Suvares said that pain is one of the main reasons why women give up breastfeeding.

“When a baby is shallow latched, there is more chance for nipple pain, sores, and cracks to lead to bleeding nipples. With proper guidance from the very beginning, a mother can deeply latch her baby more comfortably, which can reduce the risk of nipple trauma and allow her to enjoy the moment.

Some mothers do not initiate breastfeeding, thinking they do not produce enough. From the middle of the pregnancy, the mother’s body is preparing to produce the colostrum and immediately after delivery, the mother can start breastfeeding her baby. The more the mother breastfeeds, the greater the supply.”

Benefits beyond bond

There are several benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome.

“Breast milk is an important source of nutrition for a baby. It protects the baby from infections and lowers the risk of health issues. Breastfeeding is said to help mothers’ uterus contract and stop bleeding more quickly after delivery. It lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and promotes a strong bond between a mother and her baby,” Suvares noted.

Busting myths

Many women do not feed their babies fearing weight gain but this is a wrong conception.

“Breastfeeding enables mothers to shed the excess weight they have gained during their pregnancy and so on. During breastfeeding, the body uses the extra fat stored during pregnancy. It is recommended to eat an extra 300 to 500 kilocalories a day to keep up the energy and milk production. Even after consuming extra calories, the body can lose weight with exclusive breastfeeding,” Suvares added

Tips to follow

Have a healthy diet during breastfeeding. Drink plenty of water. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and fibre. Cut down on added sugar, soft drinks, fried food, and fatty meat. Take proper rest whenever possible.


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