Encouraging Breastfeeding: a Review of Breastfeeding Benefits and the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative

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ENCOURAGING BREASTFEEDING: A REVIEW OF BREASTFEEDING BENEFITS AND THE BABY FRIENDLY HOSPITAL INITIATIVE

Adlina Suleiman, MD, MPH
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (New York) Baby Friendly Hospital National Assessor

Zainab Kassim, MRCPI(Paeds)
Paediatric Consultant and Lecturer, International Islamic University

Siti Norjinah Moin
President, Malaysian Breastfeeding Association
Baby Friendly Hospital International Assessor

SUMMARY

Doctors, being at the forefront of maternal and child care do not enquire about

the child’s feeding during immunization. Even if the doctors ask about nutrition,

no enquiry is made as to why mothers do not breastfeed exclusively for the first 6

months. Many general practitioners are unaware of the benefits of exclusive

breastfeeding much less lactation management. Lactation management is not a

subject taught in medical school. Even with WHO and UNICEF support in promoting

breastfeeding in Malaysia, there are still many doctors and hospital administrators who

belittle this subject. The Ministry of Health Malaysia has been exemplary whereby all

public hospitals have attained the Baby Friendly Status. In the private sector, only two

hospitals out of the more then 200 in Malaysia have attained the status. Only USM

Kubang Kerian have attained the Baby Friendly status in the Ministry of Education

owned hospitals. The Kinrara Armed Forces Hospital and Lumut Armed Forces

Hospital owned by the Ministry of Defence have also attained the status.

This article was written to review the countless number of studies carried out on

the benefits of breastfeeding. It wishes to bring forth in a concise manner some

of the more relevant and latest benefits of breastfeeding. It would also address the issue

of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. It is hoped that with this article more studies will

be carried out to prove the never ending miracles that breast milk has to offer to the

infant. It is also hoped that doctors and hospital administrators would look into the issue

of breastfeeding with more seriousness and put the achievement of Baby Friendly

Hospital status at par with the achievement of the ISO accreditation.

Key Words: Exclusive Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding Benefits, Baby Friendly Hospital _____________________________________________________________________

INTRODUCTION

Hawa (Eve) had no support in breastfeeding her children other than Adam and only the animals as role models. Successive generations of women had mothers, sisters and other women to help and guide them. Then in the early 1900’s artificial feeding came about and this wiped out two generations of women who were potential breastfeeding guides.

Breastfeeding rates in the US began to drop from 88% in 1930’s to only 31% in 1965. There are now almost no grandmothers or mothers who know how to initiate and sustain breastfeeding.1
Two things happened in the early part of the century to change the custom of giving human infants primarily human milk:
1. a high infant mortality rate (especially in the cities) was thought to be caused primarily by poor diet
2. paediatrics was gaining popularity as a medical speciality. Paediatricians followed the accepted belief that poor diet was the cause of most infant morbidity and mortality, and made infant feeding an important part of their practices.2 Most women begin breastfeeding for all the right reasons: the health and welfare of the baby. Those who continue, do so because they like it. Breastfed babies look different, feel different and are different from their bottle-fed counterparts despite artificial baby milk or formula manufacturer’s claim that their products are equal or similar to breast milk.3

Human milk is designed for human infants. Research has shown that human...
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