With just 45 days maternity leave, working moms in the UAE are struggling to ensure that their newborns’ nutrition needs are met before packing off to work, with a recent study revealing how 39.7 per cent of the working moms in Sharjah are feeding their babies formula milk instead of nursing them.
The mother’s quick transfer from home to work and her decision to switch to formula milk has an adverse impact on the overall development of their baby.
And, it is to drive home the importance of breastfeeding that the Sharjah Baby Friendly Emirate Campaign was launched last March, under the slogan "The right start for a better future”.
“Breast-milk is still superior to formula in its health benefits, primarily due to its vital antibodies. Furthermore, formula-fed babies are known to be more susceptible to gas and bowel problems,” informed Dr Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Director of the Executive Committee for the Sharjah Baby Friendly Emirate Campaign.
In fact, the UAE government allows mothers reduced working hours so that they can go home and nurse their child.
“Mothers must be educated about the impact formula milk has on their babies,” stressed a paediatrician. “Dependence on formula milk could result in many healthy issues, especially obesity and respiratory-related. We strongly advise all mothers to nurse their babies exclusively for the first six months.”
It is seen that many mothers expressed their milk and stored for use while they were away at work. “Since I had to return to work after 45 days, I had no option but to express. It was a tedious process but I didn’t want to start my child on formula milk,” confessed mother of a six-month-old.
It’s the staggering percentage of formula-milk dependants that has Dr Hessa concerned. “The revelation that almost half of our emirate’s babies are on artificial formula gives us renewed urgency to step up our efforts. But rather than criticizing mothers who use formula, we are encouraging them to find a healthy balance between formula and breastfeeding.”
Although many mothers might think that fixing a formula milk bottle is faster than nursing, she stressed that it wasn’t as time-consuming as making formula milk, and was more cost-effective and nutritious for their babies.
"Nursing helps babies fight infections, prevents allergies and offers protection against many chronic conditions,” reported a medical practitioner. “We advise mothers to nurse their babies at least for the first year.”
The Sharjah Baby-Friendly Emirate campaign was initiated under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Budoor bint Sultan Al Qassimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), President of the Campaign and Honorary President of the Breastfeeding Friends Association.
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