Fewer women in UAE breastfeeding babies
Fewer women in the UAE are opting to breastfeed their babies, with only 31 per cent continuing to do so until the babies reached five months.
Dr Eeva Lisa Langille, head paediatrician and neonatologist at Burjeel Hospital, attributed this to the shorter maternity leaves, lack of breastfeeding support at the workplace and lack of family support to encourage breastfeeding as the best method to ensure healthier infants.
“According to a UK study, babies who were breastfed for up to four months have lower hospital admission,” she told Khaleej Times.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises mothers to exclusively breastfeed for up to six months, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods for up to two years of age.
Citing figures from the WHO, Dr Langille said about 88 per cent of new mothers in the UAE start to breastfeed their infants at birth, but only 31 per cent continue till five months. Around 27 per cent of mothers continue to breastfeed but mixed with bottle feeding.
The latest WHO statistics also showed the declining trend of breastfeeding in the Middle East region. In 2006, mothers who were exclusively breastfeeding for at least five months declined to only 25 per cent from 33 per cent in 1996.Dr Langille stressed the importance of support to breastfeeding mothers, not only from family members but also from healthcare personnel to advise women on the importance of breastfeeding for their infants’ growth and development.
For mothers going back to work, expressing milk early is a good practice, she advised. While formula makes a good supplement, Dr Langille said expressing milk is the better option.
“If you know you are going back to work, express milk and store them in the refrigerator or freezer so you have good supply. An industrial freezer at -20O degree C will keep the milk good for six months,” she said.
Contrary to general belief that expressing milk is hard work and painful, it is actually “simple and very easy. You have to do it correctly for it to work. You just need advice on the good method of pumping the milk”, Dr Langille, who is also a lactation consultant, pointed out.
She also urged companies to consider putting up nurseries on their premises for women to easily breastfeed their babies. “This is an excellent way of encouraging mothers to go back to work... (especially since) women are (an) important part of the workforce,” she concluded.