Multiple research studies now confirm that women who breastfeed their babies for six months or longer can reduce their risk of developing pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes. Ms. Haila Johar, Executive Director of Nursing at the Women’s Wellness and Research Center (WWRC), says nurses play an important role in encouraging women to choose, and continue, breastfeeding.
“Evidence shows that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life offers many health benefits for both mother and child. However, it is not always easy for women to follow through on this recommendation. The key to successful breastfeeding is to understand each woman’s challenges and provide easy access to information and support,” said Ms. Johar.
Breastfeeding provides all the energy and nutrients that an infant needs. It promotes sensory and cognitive development and protects the infant against a number of infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding also reduces infant mortality from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia and helps ensure a quicker recovery from illness. It also strengthens the bond between mother and child, aids in postpartum recovery, reduces the risk of postpartum bleeding, anemia, breast and ovarian cancer, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis during menopause.
According to Ms. Johar, mothers need to be informed about infant feeding options so they can make a knowledgeable choice. She says many women will stop breastfeeding earlier than planned, often due to misinformation and lack of education about the benefits of breastfeeding, or barriers they feel unable to overcome. These include painful cracked nipples, infections such as mastitis, and difficulties getting their baby to latch properly.
Ms. Nahrida Nazir Mir, a mother of two, understands why some mothers choose to stop breastfeeding and is raising awareness of the positive difference lactation guidance and support can make for mothers who struggle. She received lactation support at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) maternity facilities and successfully breastfed her second child despite encountering some difficulties breastfeeding her first.
“I had great difficulty breastfeeding my first child, Saad” said Ms. Mir. “He was crying a lot so I consulted with my family members who advised me that he was hungry because I was not producing enough breastmilk. I didn’t have a lot of information about breastfeeding at the time and I was afraid he wasn’t receiving enough milk and nutrients from me, so I immediately supplemented my breastmilk with formula,” she says.
To encourage more women to consider breastfeeding, expectant mothers scheduled for an antenatal assessment at the Women’s Wellness and Research Center receive information from the hospital’s nurses, patient family educators, and clinical midwife specialists about the benefits of breastfeeding and instruction on the various techniques. If extra guidance is required or requested, additional coaching and one-on-one support are offered at the Outpatient Department.
“During my prenatal period, I met with a clinical midwife specialist who specialized in lactation. She taught me a lot about breastfeeding,” said Ms. Mir. “I learned that newborns actually need very little milk because their stomachs are the size of a marble, which explained why my firstborn, Saad, was constantly getting reflux and crying.”
She continued: “During my second pregnancy, I received tremendous support from the hospital. a clinical midwife specialist was accessible by phone and in person to answer all of my questions and she equipped me with the information and tools I needed to breastfeed my baby without difficulty,” said Ms. Mir. “As a result, my second child, Fahad, doesn’t suffer from reflux and I can sleep without worrying as I now know my baby is getting all the nutrition he needs from my breastmilk.”
“After having such a positive experience, I feel empowered to act as an advocate for breastfeeding for other members of my family and the community,” said Ms. Mir.