Why breastfeeding matters
While breastfeeding is a complete form of nutrition for infants, it's equally beneficial for mothers.
That's according to one expert who is on a mission to have more South African mothers breastfeed their babies for longer.
This week marked World Breastfeeding Week, which aims to raise awareness on the health and well-being benefits of breastfeeding.
Zain Johnson chatted to child nutrition expert Dr Chantell Witten on the importance of breastfeeding.
It's essential to the mothering process. A lot of hormones are released during breastfeeding and these are happy hormones. So there is evidence that breastfeeding alleviates the strain and distress to moms. As the oxytocin calms the mother down, it also calms the baby. It has a psychological effect on mother and baby.Dr. Chantell Witten, child nutrition expert
From a health perspective, breastfeeding gives mothers a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer. For the baby, breast milk provides the optimal nutrition.
Baby grows well and at a healthy rate. Baby is less likely to have infections such as diarrhoea or pneumonia. Later on in adult life, people who have been breastfed are less likely to be overweight, diabetic, hypertensive or have cardiovascular disease.Dr. Chantell Witten, child nutrition expert
South Africa's breastfeeding rate below the age of 6 months is below the World Health Organization's target of 50% by 2025.
In reality, we should be talking about 80%. We want all children to be exclusively breastfed, especially during the first six months. Those first few months lay down the foundation for health. The way to optimal health is through breastmilk and nothing else.Dr. Chantell Witten, child nutrition expert
Currently, we are at 32% for all children under six months. We have more formula feeding now and that is not acceptable. What that means is that 68% of our children are not optimally fed.Dr. Chantell Witten, child nutrition expert
Exclusive breastfeeding is very difficult for mothers in the fast-paced modern world. There are many barriers contributing to why South Africa's breastfeeding statistics are low.
Many mothers have to work or return to school. There are times where there is mortality of the mother and the baby is left behind. So there is a place for formula. But it cannot be the norm in our country. So what we're looking at is that the formula industry is undermining mothers confidence in breastfeeding. Mothers doubt themselves and the moment they struggle, they switch to formula.Dr. Chantell Witten, child nutrition expert
Scroll up for the interview.