Aug 2012

Breast stays best for babies


Breast stays best for babies

Thalia Anderson - Department of Health

South Africa will join the world in celebrating World Breastfeeding Week which is held annually from1 to 7 August.Thisyearmarksthe20thanniversary of a week that promotes breastfeeding as the best feeding option for all babies.

South Africa has committed itself as a country that will actively promote, protect and support breastfeeding as the best infant feeding option for all children.

During Breastfeeding Week, the Department of Health aims to create awareness about the importance of mothers continuing to breastfeed when they return to work. Working mothers should be enabled to pro- vide their babies with the best feeding option. Studies have proved that breastfed babies are less prone to infections and conditions such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. Due to the reduced risk of infection, breastfed babies are more content and less frequently sick, which reduces the mother’s absenteeism from work.


There is evidence that combining work and breastfeeding has benefits for the mother, the baby and the employer. Many mothers have succeeded in combining breastfeeding and employment with support from families, community and employers.

This can be achieved through the provision of comfortable, private areas or corners at the workplace for expressing and storing breast milk and where childcare facilities are established. The expressed breast milk can be fed to the baby while the mother is at work.

Breast milk alone for the first six months is the only food a baby needs. This means no water or any other fluid or food needs to be given to the baby for the first six months. Continued demand feeding at night is important to increase milk production – the more the baby feeds the more milk the mother produces.


South Africa has experienced a decline in the culture of breastfeeding over the past decade mainly as a result of the HIV and AIDS epidemic and the marketing of breast milk substitutes that promote infant formula as equal or superior to breast milk.

Recent guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) based on scientifi evidence, recommends that HIV-infected mothers can breastfeed their infants, provided they take anti-retroviral drugs to prevent HIV transmission from mother to baby.

The Department of Health has therefore adopted the WHO recommendation as part of government’s commitment to reduce the infant mortality rate in South Africa.


For more information, call the Department of Health: 018 4730324

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