More Brunei mothers breastfeeding
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
PRELIMINARY results of a study on the impact of maternity leave regulations show an increase in the numbers breastfeeding their infants over the past few years.
In 2013, four in every 10 mothers with infants (or 41 per cent) were breastfeeding. The figure was up from 30 per cent in 2011.
In an interview, Community Nutritionist at the Ministry of Health Chua Meah Lean said preliminary results from a study has shown a steady increase in the rate of breastfeeding mothers over three years.
As of 2011, almost 30 per cent mothers were found to breastfeed their newborns exclusively for the first six months of life, while latest reports indicated a gradual increase in 2012 and 2013 with 35 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively.
The figures were based on a study on the impact of Maternity Leave Regulation 2011 on the practice of exclusive breastfeeding among working women across Brunei.
She said the increase could be attributed to more hospitals encouraging breastfeeding by giving mothers more time to bond with their children after birth.
“Maternal and child health clinics and Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Salleha (RIPAS) Hospital in Brunei offer antenatal breastfeeding classes for parents, so it is wise to attend such talks and bring along the caregiver of the baby.
“Depending on the mode of delivery, in most cases, the baby will be put onto the mother’s chest immediately after birth. This is to allow skin to skin contact, which is important to keep the baby warm and gives an early start to breastfeeding,” she added.
She said when the baby is put onto the mother’s chest, it encourages the baby to move towards the nipple due to the scent of the breast.
Chua said the ministry in 2013 took a major step to increase awareness on breastfeeding by establishing the Maternal Infant and Young Children Nutrition Taskforce.
The ministry had set a target to increase exclusive breastfeeding rate for the six months up to 50 per cent by 2020.
“Regardless of how her baby is born, a woman’s commitment to breastfeeding is the most important factor in her success. Full support from her husband and family members are also important in allowing mothers to breastfeed her newborn successfully,” the community nutritionist said.
Chua went on to say that breastfeeding not only helps provide protection for infants by giving them nutrients and antibodies, but is also proven to protect infants against diseases and strengthening a child’s immune system.
“Breastmilk provides protection for the baby in a number of ways. When the mother is exposed to an infection, her body produces anti-bodies (infection fighting substances) to that infection. These antibodies are passed to the baby through her breast milk,” said the nutritionist.
“Factors in breast milk help the development of a barrier to micro-organisms and allergens, thus have stronger protection from developing allergies.”
She added that recent studies have also shown that children who are breastfed longer may be able to move up further along the social ladder and could possibly give the baby a boost in intelligence as opposed to children who are not breastfed.
“The early days right after a baby is born is a critical time for establishing breastfeeding,” said Chua, adding that it (breast milk) is a complete food containing all the nutrional needs that a baby requires for the first six months.
She said women who refuse to breastfeed are more likely to develop anaemia (deficiency of red blood cells) and have a higher chance of retaining fat deposited during pregnancy which may result in obesity in the long run while also increasing the risk of developing breast cancer and hip fractures in older age.
Chua also said that breastfeeding is cost-effective.
“Breastfeeding is readily available. There is nothing to buy and it needs no preparation or storage. If the baby is not breastfed, the family will need to buy replacement milk for the baby and find time to prepare feeds and keep feeding equipment clean.”
Asked how working mothers can be encouraged to breastfeed more, Chua said cultural acceptance of breastfeeding varies widely around the world, but with much needed support from their husbands and family members, it is possible.
“In Brunei, if a mother wishes to breastfeed outside the home when a breastfeeding room is not available, she should cover herself either with a nursing cover, blanket or shawl,” she said, encouraging mothers to practise at home, because many babies dislike having a blanket over their heads while being breastfed.
She went on to say that MoH will continue to strengthen various initiatives in promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding especially in the workplace. However, cooperation and support in all aspects, including parents, families, communities, workplaces and the private sector is highly anticipated to facilitate mothers.
Various activities were held earlier in the week to commemorate the World Breastfeeding Week, including a three-day breastfeeding course facilitated by trainers who had completed their 40-hour breastfeeding course, under the Obstetrics and Gynaecology wards at the Women and Children’s Centre of the RIPAS Hospital.
As one of MoH’s initiative to increase exclusive breastfeeding, health centres throughout the four districts are also giving away free nursing covers to mothers.
The Brunei Times