Acting Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko urged society to come together and restore a culture of breastfeeding. Photo: Twitter
The Gauteng Department of Health has expressed concern over the low rate of exclusive breastfeeding, which currently stands at 48.6%.
As South Africans join the world in commemorating World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), Provincial Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko has urged society to unite and restore a breastfeeding culture.
READ: Mothers encouraged to breastfeed during Covid-19
“In Gauteng, we were able to encourage mothers to breastfeed within one hour of birth at a rate of 74.9%. However, we are concerned that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding is low. Let us collectively encourage mothers to breastfeed and also create an enabling environment for breastfeeding,” Nkomo-Ralehoko said.
She added that exclusive breastfeeding played a major role in reducing the incidence of diarrhoea, respiratory infections and allergies.
Breastfed babies are less likely to become obese, diabetic, have cancers and heart disease later in life. They are also at a lower risk of allergies, asthma, wheezing and rashes. Breast milk is the optimal food source for babies because it contains all the nutritional substances and antibodies they need to grow and be protected against disease.
Meanwhile, the South African Breastmilk Reserve, which turned 19 this year, said donor numbers were down.
According to the organisation, which is currently feeding 3,864 babies, the number of donors has fallen by less than 900 compared to 2020/21 due to the lockdown and donor mothers working from home.
The World Health Organization and the National Department of Health have recommended that mothers start breastfeeding within one hour of birth and breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life, then continue breastfeeding. breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to two years.
The organization also recommended early and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact, rooming-in and kangaroo mother care, which significantly improve neonatal survival and reduce morbidity.