oa South African Health Review - Breastfeeding in South Africa : are we making progress?



Recent global evidence shows that breastfeeding benefits both mothers and babies in rich and poor nations. Furthermore, evidence suggests that concerted national efforts to scale up breastfeeding interventions, policies and programmes can bring about rapid change, and that creating an enabling environment to practise breastfeeding has huge potential as an investment in the future health of mothers and the healthy life course of their children.

In South Africa, available national data suggest that most mothers initiate breastfeeding after birth. However, it has been observed that very few babies are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life. Many babies also receive complementary foods between two and three months of age, and in some cases, even within a few days of birth. This suboptimal early nutrition profile predisposes South Africans to poor health outcomes in both their infant and young child years as well as in adulthood.
This chapter interrogates whether we are making progress in our country to improve breastfeeding practices. A review was done of breastfeeding progress globally, and South Africa's commitment to breastfeeding as a component of infant and young child feeding (IYCF) over the past few years. The chapter determines what has been done to promote breastfeeding, including which policy changes have imminently promoted breastfeeding. Thereafter, the key determinants of breastfeeding in South Africa are unpacked and detailed, together with a review of proven interventions at different levels of society. Finally, the chapter makes practical recommendations to restore breastfeeding as the 'new' norm for infant nutrition in all sectors of South African society.


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