As the Ministry of Health continues to push exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months of a child’s life, two mothers from Montego Bay are encouraging more mothers to take up the habit.
They admit that while breastfeeding is not easy, it is worth the effort, as it provides significant benefits for the whole family.
Stacey Goodwill, who breastfed her now one-year-old son exclusively for six months, tells JIS News that the practice helps both mother and child.
“One thing for sure, it keeps the baby calm. It also helps financially; you don’t have to think about buying formula,” she said.
“[Breast milk] also helps with the development of the brain. I see significant differences with my baby if I do a comparison with my first child. This baby is more active, he is more vibrant, he has never been ill. He does not have any rashes or blemishes on his skin,” she added.
Goodwill spoke passionately at the Western Regional Health Authority’s (WRHA) breastfeeding symposium held recently at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St. James.
The event was aimed at heightening public awareness of the importance of breastfeeding.
Goodwill admitted that, initially, she was not enthused about breastfeeding, as several myths made her wary of the practice.
These myths include that breastfeeding causes sagging of the breasts and that breast milk alone was not sufficient to nourish the baby.
However, after consultation with the St. James Health Department, Goodwill felt more comfortable about breastfeeding.
“They gave me a proper introduction to breastfeeding, and I tried it and I loved it, and once you love your baby, you want to give your baby the best, which is the breast,” she said.
She noted that the support of family members, including spouses, is important in ensuring that breastfeeding is successful.
Goodwill is encouraging working mothers to express and store their breast milk to ensure that even if they are not around, their babies can still get the milk.
She is advising other mothers not to give up, as the benefits a child gets from breastfeeding are worth the effort.
Regional Director of the WRHA, Errol Greene, in a speech read by Medical Officer of Health for St. James, Dr. Marcia Johnson Campbell, said that not only is breast milk the cost-effective way to nourish the baby but the practice yields health benefits for infants and mothers, as well as countries that support the habit.
“In fact, supporting breastfeeding is one of the smartest investments countries can make for the well-being of citizens… whether you are from a low-, middle- or high-income economic status. The benefits include boosting educational attainment and increasing productivity,” he said.
Greene noted that the breastfeeding rate in the western region has declined and more robust measures are needed to improve the numbers.
“The exclusive breastfeeding rates in 2018 were just about 51.5 per cent, which was a bit lower than 52.8 per cent in 2017. We have to employ new and varied strategies to improve these figures in the interest of public health,” he said.
For his part, Mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Homer Davis, commended the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the WRHA on the ongoing efforts to highlight the importance of breastfeeding.
“I appreciate that, as we bolster efforts to promote breastfeeding, we are also actively addressing barriers, which prevent mothers from engaging in this very beneficial practice. Apart from helping a mother and child to bond, it is regarded as the best form of nutrition for [babies],” he noted.
Mayor Davis encouraged persons to become advocates for breastfeeding.
The WRHA’s breastfeeding symposium included presentations on the nutritional requirements during pregnancy, nutritional components of breastmilk, men’s role in breastfeeding, empowering breastfeeding women in the workplace, and the baby-friendly hospital initiative.