x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

New hotline to offer breastfeeding advice in three languages

Breastfeeding Friends, a voluntary non-profit organisation set up under Sharjah's Supreme Council for Family Affairs, plans to introduce the new number at the beginning of next month.

DUBAI // A new hotline will encourage mums to breastfeed by offering assistance, advice and support.
Breastfeeding Friends, a voluntary non-profit organisation set up under Sharjah's Supreme Council for Family Affairs, plans to introduce the new number at the beginning of next month. Help will be available in Arabic, English and Urdu.
Currently, there are separate numbers for each language, but the group hopes that having a single number for all the languages and services will make it easier for mothers to establish contact, enable it to reach more women and increase its support capacity.
Other services offered by the group include breast pump hire, meetings for mothers and one-to-one counselling. Though the organisation is based in Sharjah, mums from across the Emirates will be able to call the hotline.
"It is hard to support breastfeeding in the community," said Sharjah-based GP Dr Ruqeya Fikri, the group's executive coordinator. "Some mothers face difficulties or challenges and need help - somebody to give the correct advice, somebody who they trust who can give the help they want.
"Those who are responsible for this go on special courses so they can answer some questions, but if they cannot answer a question they direct the mother to the breastfeeding clinic. If they have any problems we can direct them to where to get help."
Dr Fikri said the group's aim was to make breastfeeding the norm, not the second choice. "There are psychological and emotional benefits from breastfeeding for both mother and baby," she added. "The bonding between mother and baby is stronger with breastfeeding, and in the future more and more benefits are going to be discovered."
The group's patron, Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, said its work was leading to healthier babies and healthier families."Women, who have been blessed by nature with the ability to feed their children with the best nourishment nature could provide, were being forced by advertising campaigns to bottle feed their babies with powder milk," she said. "BFF has managed to reach many mothers and families and convinced them that breast is best."
The group says artificial baby milk is different from breast milk in terms of nutrients, enzymes, growth factors, hormones and immunological and anti-inflammatory properties, and so cannot aid infant development in the same way.
Breastfeeding Friends is building up a network of mums who act as counsellors. One such counsellor, Fawzia Al Amiri, said the advantages of peer counselling had been proven. "Experienced mothers, after being trained, are the best supporters of new mothers, as we can relate to them," she said. 
csimpson@thenational.ae