Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Breastfeeding chic in Brazil

Well, hey, it's World Breastfeeding Week next week. It has the theme of 'Breastfeeding in the first hour : save one million babies'. And as I wrote some time ago, you could also win US$100!

So visit the website for further details and to enter the competition.

WBW isn't widely promoted in the UK because August is holiday month. We mark Breastfeeding Awareness Week in May. But Baby Milk Action does have the materials produced by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action available.

Brazil marks WBW big time. In the city where I used to live, the city council even passed a law making it an official annual event with guaranteed funding. My wife coordinated the week for many years and wrote about it a few years ago in Practising Midwife (click here to download).

I've just received this clipping from Brazil. There is a familiar rule - if you want media attention, get some celebrities involved. So here are Brazilian celebrity couple, Thiago Lacerda and Vanessa Lóes, stars of Brazil's popular soap opera 'novelas', with their son Gael.

Here is my unofficial translation:

Little Gael is not yet one month old, but he is already promoting a noble cause: son of the actors Thiago Lacerda and Vanessa Lóes, the baby launches World Breastfeeding Week in Brazil, together with his parents. In more than 120 countries from 1 to 7 August, specialists will be calling attention to the advantages of putting the baby to the breast soon after birth.

"The first breastfeed liberates the hormones prolactin and oxytocin, enabling the let-down of milk, helping the contractions of the uteris and reducing the risk of haemorrhage. Even if the baby does not feed, this contact is important to establish the bond with the mother," explains the President of the Breastfeeding Department of the Brazilian Paediatric Society, Graciet Vieira.

The specialists advice was followed by the acting couple, who now want to pass on the importance of early breastfeeding. Gael was born normally on 25 June, with 3.650 kg and 51 cms. Still with the umbilical cord, he was put to Vanessa's breast.

"It was so he would have skin to skin contact," said Thiago.

Vanessa remembered the moment affectionately: "Gael got comfortable, sucked a little, had that first important contact. Then we went to our room together. He opened his mouth and breastfed just like that."

The baby food companies were stopped by increasingly strong legislation implementing World Health Assembly marketing requirements over the past 20 years. That, coupled with support and promotion, such as having TV stars promote breastfeeding, is helping recover breastfeeding rates in Brazil.

In 1975, one out of two Brazilian women only breastfed until the second or third month; in a survey from 1999, one out of two breastfed for 10 months.

For more, see this paper by Dr. Marina Rea (there is an English abstract): A review of breastfeeding in Brazil and how the country has reached ten months' breastfeeding duration

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