This week is World Breastfeeding Week and Orange Health Service clinicians and community health staff are using this opportunity to promote the benefits of breastfeeding in preventing chronic disease and improving wellbeing.
The theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is ‘Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life!’ which acknowledges that when mothers and babies succeed in their breastfeeding plans, they can enjoy a lifetime of benefits.
Child and Family Health Nurse Helen Carter said that research shows babies who receive only breast milk for the first six months of life are less likely to develop a wide range of chronic and acute diseases, including ear infections, asthma, obesity, and respiratory illnesses.
“Breastfeeding is a gift that contributes to a life and lasts a lifetime,” she said.
“Breastfeeding provides essential nutrition for an infant and has the potential to reduce risk of childhood obesity later in life”, Juliet Hawthorn, Community Health Dietitian said.
Orange Health Service Paediatrician Dr Paul Bloomfield said a mother’s breast milk is the perfect food for her baby.
"When I look after premature and sick infants in hospital, I always prefer them to be given breast milk. Breast milk is easy to digest, helps the baby avoid infections, boosts their early development and reduces the chances of allergies."
Women’s Health Clinical Nurse Consultant Anne Smart said breastfeeding reduces a woman’s risk of reproductive cancers, including uterine and ovarian cancer. Diabetes Educator Grant Turner-Mann said there have been many studies looking at the benefits of breastfeeding in relation to diabetes.
“It appears that the general consensus is that breastfeeding does provide a significant reduction in risk of developing childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes at any age for the child and that the risk is further reduced in children who are exclusively breast fed for longer periods,” Mr Turner-Mann said.
“In addition glycaemic control is often improved in women with pre-existing diabetes who are breast feeding”.
Breast feeding has important implications in the cardiac health of both mothers and babies, with studies showing that women who have breastfed for more than 12 months over their lifetime are nearly 10 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and its associated risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
“Studies have also shown that babies that are breast fed reap the benefits well into adulthood, with lower average body mass index’s and higher levels of HDL – good cholesterol, which are protective factors against the development of cardiac disease,” said Rebecca Moore, Senior Chronic Care Physiotherapist.
Support for breastfeeding mothers from family, friends and clinicians is one of the keys to success for women to achieve their breastfeeding goals.
"As child and family health nurses, we cannot underestimate the influence we have on new mothers, with our support and guidance, to have a positive impact on their breastfeeding experience," said Lactation Consultant Helen North.
This is supported by Child and Family Health Nurse Meagan Evans.
“Breastfeeding is everybody’s business. Support from the mother’s partner and network of family and friends is important for breastfeeding success,” she said.
The emotional benefits of breastfeeding are also important to the wellbeing of mother and baby. Support is also available for women who are not breastfeeding to ensure the connection between mother and baby is a positive experience.
“Feeding is a great time to connect with your baby and contribute towards baby’s emotional well- being, it is a lovely time to focus and exchange a smile and a chat,” said Angela Thornhill, Child and Family Health Nurse.
‘Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for life!’ also highlights the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an international framework for reducing poverty and providing people with lives of dignity in every nation by 2015. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), which coordinates World Breastfeeding Week, has identified how breastfeeding contributes to each of the MDGs. For further details, visit www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org.
Media Contact: Vanesa Delaney, Media Manager 0417 511 738