BREASTFEEDING NEEDS SUPPORT
31 July 2008
International evidence shows that breastfeeding is best for babies, boosting their resistance to infection and diseases, and their growth and development. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is using World Breastfeeding Week, which runs from 1 - 7 August, to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding and the role that general practitioners play in supporting mothers to breastfeed their babies. “Breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby in the first six months of life. Mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed and we need to promote society-wide acceptance of breastfeeding wherever and whenever the baby needs to feed,” said Dr Vasantha Preetham, RACGP President and GP from Perth.
“Most women make their infant feeding decisions before or early in pregnancy. GPs can play an important role in providing mums-to-be and their partners with information on feeding from the first trimester onward,” said Dr Preetham.“The first few months of a baby’s life can be an anxious time for new parents and many women and their infants visit a GP a number of times in the first six months. This is a great opportunity for GPs to support mothers who are breastfeeding or who are keen to breastfeed. Doctors can discuss a number of issues to determine if breastfeeding is going well for the mother and baby including the number and length of feeds, general contentedness and weight gain, the baby’s urine and faecal output and whether there are nipple or breast problems,” said Dr Kelly Seach, RACGP Registrar Representative and breastfeeding mother. “Breastfeeding is not only healthy for the baby; it also has benefits for mothers. Breastfeeding helps a woman's body recover to its pre-pregnant state more quickly, and lactation (the production of breastmilk) protects against premenopausal breast cancer and osteoporosis. Psychological benefits for the mother and her infant when breastfeeding, encouraging close bonds, have also been recognised.“When mums return to work, support should be in place to enable them to take breaks, ideally with a private area where they are able to breastfeed their baby. “The RACGP Red Book, our guide to preventive activity in general practice, recommends that GPs encourage and support exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months, then the introduction of complementary foods and continued breastfeeding thereafter. It is recommended that breastfeeding continue until 12 months of age and thereafter as long as it suits the mother and the baby.
“It is important to note however, that there are women who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to breastfeed their babies. They also need their GP’s support and advice in relation to alternative feeding methods,” said Dr Seach. GPs can find more information about breastfeeding in the RACGP’s position statement on breastfeeding on the RACGP website:www.racgp.org.au/scriptcontent/policy/policydocs/Breastfeeding_Position_Statement.pdf
To read more about World Breastfeeding Week, please visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s website: www.breastfeeding.asn.au/
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is responsible for maintaining standards for quality clinical practice, education and training, and research in Australian general practice. The RACGP has the largest general practitioner membership of any medical organisation in Australia and represents the majority of Australia's general practitioners. Visit http://www.racgp.org.au/
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