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Medics advocate more support for breastfeeding mothers

Health authorities admit that many parents still don’t know that early initiation of breastfeeding (within the first hour) improves the health and longterm wellbeing of a baby, because colostrum, or first milk, is rich in nutrients and protects a baby against disease.
Infants who are exclusively breastfed have a reduced risk of various diseases such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, gastrointestinal infections, and diarrhoea.
A very important factor in child health is the consumption of colostrum, which is produced only for the first few days after giving birth, an official from the Nutrition Centre of the Ministry of Health reiterated recently.
Director General of the ministry’s Hygiene and Health Promotion Department, Dr Bounpheng Philavong, addressed the topics on Monday at a meeting held to mark World Breastfeeding Week, which is observed annually from August 1 to 7. This year the week adopted the theme “empower parents, enable breastfeeding”. 
Breastfeeding week is observed in many countries to improve the health of babies around the world.
Dr Bounpheng said breast milk contains nutrients that are essential for a baby’s proper development. Milk powder and baby formulas are not as healthy as breast milk and their use increases the potential for a baby to fall ill.
Despite the overall high rate of breastfeeding in Laos, this figure has actually been declining, especially in towns, where many women want to work. This means their children are being bottlefed instead, he added.
To combat this trend, there is a need to develop supportive national policies and legislation such as paid maternity leave and breastfeeding breaks to enable women to continue breastfeeding. 
Dr Bounpheng explained that providing this support is the right thing to do for both babies and mothers: breastfeeding prevents infant death, childhood illness, and noncommunicable diseases while supporting brain development and protecting maternal health. It also makes good economic sense.
Women who have adequate maternity benefits value their employers, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.
A senior health specialist with Save the Children International in Laos, Ms Kelley Khamphouxay, said research from all around the world shows that breastfeeding is one of the best ways for a family to help their baby grow up to be healthy. Breastfeeding provides nutrition, and enhances development of the brain and immune system.
According to the World Health Organisation, breastfeeding gives children the healthiest start in life and is one of the simplest, smartest and most costeffective ways of ensuring that all children survive and thrive.

By Phetphoxay Sengpaseuth
(Latest Update August 14, 2019)

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