It is the right of a newborn to be breastfed for the first six months and denying the same can have lifelong impact.
The National Nutrition Survey conducted in 2017 showed a decrease in the exclusive breastfeeding rate in the Sultanate of Oman, amounting to 23 per cent, which calls for further efforts to raise awareness in this field.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure her child’s health and survival. Nonetheless, the world over, nearly two out of three infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6 months, which is a rate that has not improved in 2 decades.
Doctors advocate breast milk as the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies, which help protect against many common childhood illnesses.
“Breastmilk is the best food for a newborn for the first few months of his or her life as it provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs in the initial months,” says a senior Consultant from the MoH.
“Breastfeeding provides up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life,” she added.
Scientific studies have proven that breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests and are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life. Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
It also aims at enhancing closer relationships between the mother and child during working time, to protect children from the incidence of certain infections, to increase mental development and intelligence rates, and to promote exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months.
The number of exclusively breastfeeding mothers has been further decreased by the inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes, which continues to undermine efforts to improve breastfeeding rates and duration.
Compulsory breastfeeding of the newborn for the first 6 months is a shared responsibility for the care of children and parents and further awareness among health workers to increase their knowledge of child and maternal nutrition issues need to be carried out, according to medical practitioners. Mothers have been urged to follow the national breastfeeding policy, according to the Department of Nutrition at the Ministry of Health.
“Infants can be protected against many known diseases as it contains antibodies if they are breastfed for the first six months up till 2 years and is safe and clean food for babies. It can also provide all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first 6 months of life and later,” said Dr Salima al Mamary, Director of the Nutrition Department.
The study, titled ‘National Nutrition Survey’ conducted by the Nutrition Department in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Al Jisr Foundation further calls all mothers of children under 6 months old that it is necessary to take actions to adhere to the importance of exclusive breastfeeding.
She further said that creating a supportive community for breastfeeding and supporting working mothers and ensuring compliance with the provisions of the ‘Omani Code of Breastfeeding’ to regulate the marketing of breast milk substitutes in all health institutions in the governorates is also currently under way for a healthy society.