It may cause a raised eyebrow at first mention, but one woman believes it’s simple logic and she might not be alone in her conviction after all, as ongoing research by scientists globally suggests breastfeeding has more power than is realised.
It’s perhaps why the manager of the National Breastfeeding Coordinating Unit in the Ministry of Health, Debra Thomas, believes breastfeeding can also reduce the levels of crime in society in the long run.
She explained to the Sunday Guardian that breastfed children have the chance of growing into better composed adults in society because of its binding effect.
“We are looking at breastfeeding being the security for the country because bonding ensures that well-adjusted individual. The more well-adjusted individuals we have in society, the more constructive adults we will have and fewer feuds and conflicts that can lead to crime.”
Thomas said so on August 3, at the annual World Breastfeeding Week Fun Walk, held at the Women’s Hospital in Mt Hope. The event was staged in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, PAHO, TT Moves and the Breastfeeding Association of T&T.
World Breastfeeding Week is observed globally each year from August 3 to 7 and highlights the importance of breastfeeding and a mother’s right to breastfeed. Thomas indicated the fun walk was just the first event to mark the start of a year of activities by the unit to raise awareness on the significance of breastfeeding. She said they would take a very close look at the lack of support systems, which may have encouraged the scarcity of breastfeeding.
To corroborate Thomas’s claims, the Sunday Guardian did a Google search and found several pieces of literature on the topic. Though not specifically linking breastfeeding to a reduction in crime, all seemed to agree that a well-breastfed child leads a more positive and productive life.
Evidence of this coming out of a research study done by a Brazilian university has even been published in The Lancet Global Health Journal.
In its findings, the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil revealed the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence until at least the age of 30 years but also has an impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability.
The long-term study, which began by researchers in Brazil in the 1980s, led by Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta, followed nearly 6,000 babies from birth enabling them for the first time to get an idea of the long-term effects of breastfeeding.
According to information on the report published in an article found on www.theguardian.com, approximately 3,500 of those babies now 30-year-old adults agreed to be screened and sit IQ tests for the study. The results revealed and confirmed those who had been breastfed, were more astute, pursued longer academic lives and earned more than those who had not been. It added those who breastfed for longer periods also generally tended to do better.
President of the T&T Midwives Association, Marcia Rollock, agreed with Thomas’s view and said that aside from the long-term benefits, babies who are breastfed reap immediate health assets as well as mothers. She said breastfeeding was also economic and helps in sustaining the environment.
“Breastfeeding protects the mother against developing Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and hip fractures later in life. It also helps her to form a closer bond with the baby and saves money. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. And those breastfed entirely for the first six months of their lives without the inclusion of formula have a greater chance against developing respiratory illness, ear infections, and digestive problems,” said Rollock.
As it pertains to the environment, she said that with breastfeeding there was no need for plastic bottles and empty tins of infant formula for disposal.
Lactation units needed on the job
For breastfeeding to become “normal” again, Thomas said another pursuit by the unit would be heavy lobbying for workplaces to become more ‘breastfeeding and mother-friendly.’
“We are imploring employers to consider including lactation units at the workplace. It is a simple little room we’re asking for…nothing fancy, just a private little room where a woman can express and store.”
Thomas said even in this present day women are faced with a lot of myths when it comes to breastfeeding. And reiterated the lack of support for mothers returning to the workplace. She said mothers must be able to feed on demand and that meant whenever and where ever.
At the fun walk, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, who was the event’s featured speaker, had said over the last few decades the world had taken a nasty turn when it comes to shaming women who breastfeed in public and that was something T&T needed to work against. He said women should have the right to breastfeed in public without being discriminated against.
Thomas praised both Central Bank of T&T and the Unit Trust Corporation for being exceptional and pioneering in their establishing of lactation units to support mothers on the job.
According to Laura Adatti, the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) maternity protection and work-family specialist, the lack of support at the workplace is one of the main reasons why women stop breastfeeding before the recommended time.
Six years ago, though 65 per cent of countries across the globe had engaged in some form of legislation to allow mothers certain privileges in the workplace, Adatti said a quarter of all countries still did not provide breastfeeding breaks in the workplace—especially in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean—a much-needed change.
She had told ILO news, having access to paid maternity leave and information should not be where the buck stopped. It is her belief “a workplace that is ‘breastfeeding-friendly’ provides women with comfortable, private facilities to express breast milk, access to a fridge to store it, a clean and safe environment, as well as day-care facilities and family-friendly working time arrangements for both women and men, if feasible.”