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Breastfeeding Support for Mothers

Aug 13, 2013
At the Breastfeeding Support for Women event
are (from left) Ms Zandile Magasela (with her baby),
Ms Nokukhanya Nzama, Ms Nomathemba Sibisi
and Professor Anna Coutsoudis.

We need babies to be breastfed, because this is how we are going to keep them healthy and strong, says Professor Anna Coutsoudis, renowned public health scientist in UKZN’s Department of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Speaking at an event on the Medical School campus to acknowledge recently trained breastfeeding counsellors, Coutsoudis said the theme for this year’s International Breastfeeding Week was community support for breastfeeding.

This meshed perfectly with the University’s Breastfeeding Counsellor Training Programme piloted in Cato Manor and the Breastmilk Bank established at the iThemba Lethu Home for Orphans.

In the breastfeeding programme, the peer counsellors - themselves mothers - are trained to support other mothers in the community and are equipped with information on the benefits of breastmilk. The Breastmilk Bank initiative, supported by the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, is supplied by mothers with excess milk.

The keynote address at the event was delivered by the Director of Nutrition at the National Department of Health, Ms Lynn Moeng, who lamented the fact that a recent health survey showed that ‘in South Africa, only eight out of 100 mothers gave their children solely breastmilk for the first six months’.

Moeng asked the 70 mothers present – all of whom are undergoing training as breastfeeding counsellors - how many of them had exclusively breastfed their infants for six months and was visibly amazed when the majority raised their hands. Coutsoudis said this was an indication of the success of the training programme in that not only were these mothers being equipped to support other women but in the process were benefiting themselves by using best infant feeding practices.

Moeng, echoing the sentiments of Coutsoudis that ‘breastmilk remains your best choice’, said while maternity leave was often cited as an obstacle to exclusive breastfeeding in the first six  months, there were other challenges young women encountered. These included hospitals that did not support breastfeeding, family members who told young mothers to use porridge to encourage their babies to sleep through the night and the misconception that babies would be healthier if they were fed formula milk.  

She suggested a way to encourage the exclusive use of breastmilk was to educate families, ‘in particular mother-in-laws or grannies’, as they often proffered advice on how to raise children. Healthcare workers should also be properly informed and hospitals should be ‘baby-friendly’ zones.

Ms Zandile Magasela, a recently trained peer-counsellor, strongly advocated the exclusive use of breastmilk and abstinence from smoking, drinking and unprotected sex.

Magasela, who identified a tendency for people to think mothers didn’t have money if they breastfed, said ‘breastmilk is power’! She thanked Coutsoudis and the University for inviting her to be part of the training programme.

Moeng and Dean of the School of Health Sciences, Professor Sabiha Essack, handed out certificates to recently trained counsellors who had completed the 12-month training programme.

The day, also the start of  the College of Health Sciences’ celebration of Women's Month, was rounded off with a presentation by Ms Helen Mulol of  the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health who is conducting a study on the exclusivity of breastmilk intake and the associated health outcomes.

Mulol outlined the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on breastfeeding which state that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months for optimal development and health. She thanked and commended the peer counsellors for participating in the programme.

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Did you Know?

UKZN’s School of Information Systems and Technology was the first university in South Africa to introduce Podcasting as an educational tool.

The University enjoys a century of academic advancements.

Spud author, John Van De Ruit, graduated from UKZN.

UKZN is the third most productive university in South Africa in terms of research output

South Africa's best-known and most popular television maths and science teacher William Smith obtained a Master’s degree from the former University of Natal

UKZN is one of three African universities rated amongst the top 500 universities of the world according to the Academic Rankings of World Universities(ARWU).

The multimillion-rand KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS (K-RITH), an international centre of scientific research, is located on the University's Medical school campus.

The University offers approximately 2 000 academic programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

UKZN has been home to many successful sportsman over the years, Tommy Bedford a former Springbok Rugby player, Shaun Pollock & Jonty Rhodes South African Cricketers.

Some high profile businessmen studied at UKZN, Sol Kerzner the developer of Lost city & more, Stephen Saad the CEO & founder of Aspen Pharmacare Holdings, Guy Brazier the regional leader of Deloitte & Alan Olivier the CEO of Grindrod Group.

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