World Breastfeeding Week highlights the importance of breastfeeding

The first seven days of August have been traditionally declared World Breastfeeding Week. “Breastfeeding: foundation of life” – that is the slogan of this year’s breastfeeding week, which aims to draw attention to the fact that breastfeeding is the source of lifelong health for babies and their mothers alike.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is 6 months old and continuing breastfeeding after that while also introducing the baby to new age-appropriate solid foods over time. Furthermore, the WHO encourages mothers to continue breastfeeding until the child reaches 2 to 3 years of age.

Marge Põldma, Head of Breastfeeding Counselling at East Tallinn Central Hospital noted, “Breastfeeding after birth is a popular choice all over the world, but only 40% of babies get breastmilk at 6 months of age.” She revealed that less than 90% of newborn babies get breastmilk during their first week of life and about 70% of babies get breastmilk when they are 6 months old, but the percentage of children who are exclusively breastfed is still significantly lower in Estonia. Therefore, babies in Estonia are being introduced to additional foods and drinks too soon.

“Breastfeeding is the best way to feed babies since breastmilk has the ideal composition to cover the nutritional and immunological needs of babies. Breastfeeding is the natural and optimal way to feed babies and helps strengthen the bond between a mother and her child,” said Põldma, indicating the benefits of breastfeeding.

The midwife also highlighted that breastfeeding is the cheapest way to feed a baby since it is less demanding on the family budget. Breastfeeding is eco-friendly as it entails zero packaging waste and there is no need to maintain factory farms that harm the ozone layer and contaminate groundwater.

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Focus on breastfeeding support

The midwife provided some encouragement by saying, “There are a number of factors that compromise the confidence and desire of mothers to breastfeed, including lack of support from family, insufficient access to counselling services and hidden advertisements for baby formulas. By acting smart, we can steer clear of those breastfeeding perils.”

According to Põldma, there are only 2% of women who are unable to breastfeed their children, but sadly the number of young mothers who believe they are unable is currently much higher. “This is why it is important to raise breastfeeding awareness in society at large, but primarily among young families who are ready to have children,” said Põldma. “In order to help support, promote and protect breastfeeding, we provide breastfeeding counselling for breastfeeding mothers at the East Tallinn Central Hospital.”

The East Tallinn Central Hospital traditionally celebrates World Breastfeeding Week by inviting expecting families to attend breastfeeding lectures held in Estonian and Russian throughout August. For the first time ever, in addition to traditional lectures, the planned events will include a free panel on breastfeeding held on 1 August where pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers can share stories and thoughts on breastfeeding in an informal setting and consult with a breastfeeding counsellor.

You can find more information and can register for lectures on the East Tallinn Central Hospital website.

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