Nutrition at the centre of sustainable corporate wellness

We live in an era when many of us, not just aspire to, but have an expectation that living well for longer is a real possibility. Increased awareness of the impact of lifestyle on health has made it clear we can’t just rely on medical industries to reach this goal – we play the most important part. It is a part that is played not at all in sweeps of grandeur, but in the small details of our daily choices – What will we eat? When we will exercise? How will we get sufficient rest and sleep? What do we need to do to actively manage our stress today?

Corporate Wellness Week, from 2 to 6 July, emphasises the need to properly consider our time spent at work when we answer these questions. We’re the master of our own universe at home – we are able to muster up great salads and fresh food inspired dishes; take yoga classes, mountain bike, meditate and walk the dog along the beach in our free time. But what happens when we go to work?

If you are a corporate employee, chances are that you eat nearly half of your daily meals and snacks at work, and your physical activity is low. Typically, home is the haven of well-deserved respite, relaxation and free choice; while the workplace, driven by the demand for efficiencies, is stressful, demanding and limiting. This is why we like weekends.

But two days a week of healthy living is not enough. We need workplaces that also support our wellness, simply because that is where we spend most of our time. This is not just an agenda from the employee perspective. As ADSA spokesperson and Registered Dietitian, Lerato Radebe points out: “Wellness in the workplace is not only a means to keep employees happy, but has tremendous effects on absenteeism, presenteeism and productivity.”

Lerato explains that wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life. “Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth. WHO, the World Health Organisation, describes it as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Nathalie Mat, another Registered Dietitian and ADSA spokesperson, weighs in: “Nutrition is one of the easiest modifiable factors that controls a person’s energy levels and productivity. A company’s culture can perpetuate or inhibit healthy eating. I have experience of many companies where health is still not prioritized, leading to poor nutrition and health overall.”

So, what can South African business do to promote a sustainable culture of wellness in the workplace?

With nutrition at the centre of wellness, ADSA experts offer these guidelines:

  • Create and maintain higher levels of wellness awareness through ongoing advocacy, engaging a Registered Dietitian and other wellness professionals through a dedicated wellness programme;
  • Make wellness exciting by avoiding tick-box exercises or initiatives that are punitive in spirit. Wellness programmes need to be dynamic and up to date with latest trends that are interesting, value-added and that inspire employees to make lifestyle changes;
  • Combat rising healthcare costs by rewarding employees’ participation in your corporate wellness programme through rebates on health insurance;
  • Make healthy eating the workplace norm with healthy meeting snacks, healthy options in the canteen, water as the primary drink and bowls of fresh fruit;
  • Have a dietitian available on site and facilitate dietitian-led support groups as a great way to foster healthy eating without forcing programmes on employees.

 

To find a Registered Dietitian in your area visit http://www.adsa.org.za/Public/


RETHINK YOUR DRINK – CHOOSE WATER

Clean and clear, refreshing and invigorating, we know instinctively that water is good for us. Yet, many of us have lost touch with water. Overwhelmed with the wide choice of what to drink, most of it sweetened with sugar, we’ve somehow left the simple, but profound goodness of water behind.

National Nutrition Week 2017, running from 9 to 15 October and, with its theme “Rethink Your Drink – Choose Water”, aims to help us rethink when it comes to water and get into the habit of making water our beverage choice each day. Water contains no kilojoules and hydrates. It is essential for health and is the best choice to quench thirst.

What the campaign highlights is that when we are not drinking water, we are probably choosing a sugar-sweetened drink which spikes our daily kilojoule intake, degrades our diet, and leads to weight gain and the onset of non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and dental caries.

“The prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases in the country is alarming,” says Rebone Ntsie, Director: Nutrition, of the National Department of Health). “The South African Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2016 found that the prevalence of overweight was 13.3% among children 0 – 5 years of age. About 67.6% and 31.3% of South African women and men respectively are overweight and obese. These findings show that overweight and obesity among children and adults have increased from earlier surveys. Replacing sugary drinks with water can help.”

Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA)warns that the risk of coronary heart disease and ischaemic stroke rises with an increase in body weight. “There is also a clear link between sugary drink consumption and heart disease,” she says. “Indicators of heart disease such as blood lipids and uric acid also increase with an increase in consumption of sugary drinks.”

Daily consumption of two or more sugary drinks has been found to increase the risk of developing diabetes by at least 24% compared to consuming less than one sugary drink per month. According to Statistics South Africa, diabetes was the second leading underlying cause of death in the country in 2015, accounting for 5.4% deaths and the leading cause of death in females (7.1%).

On average, commercially produced sugary drinks contain the following amounts of sugar per 500 ml serving (2 average-sized cups/glasses):

  • Sweetened fizzy drinks: 13 – 17 teaspoons
  • Energy drinks: 13½ to 15 teaspoons
  • Fruit juice: 12 – 16 teaspoons
  • Sweetened milk or yoghurt-based drinks: 7 – 13½ teaspoons
  • Sweetened iced tea: 8 – 10½ teaspoons
  • Sports drinks: 4½ – 12 teaspoons
  • Sweetened drinks, such as sweetened flavoured water, vitamin enriched water and coconut water: 4 – 8 teaspoons of water

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the intake of free sugars, i.e. sugars added by the manufacturer, cook or consumer or sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates, should be less than 10% of the total daily energy intake for adults and children and less than 5% for further health benefits.

“This means that the maximum intake of free sugars from food and beverages per day for adult men and adolescents (14 – 18 years) should not be more than 12 teaspoons, and for adult women and children 5 – 13 years, not more than 9 teaspoons”, says Nicole Lubasinski, President of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA).“To achieve more health benefits, the number of teaspoons of sugar from food and beverages per day for adult men and adolescents (14 – 18 years) should not be more than 6 teaspoons, and for adult women and children 5 – 13 years, not more than 5 teaspoons”.

Some sugary drinks have a nutrition information label, this will indicate how much of the carbohydrate in the drink is found as sugar”, says Carol Browne of the Nutrition Society of South Africa (NSSA). “Sugar is one of the primary ingredients in drinks, and so it will be listed high up on the list of ingredients. In milk based drinks some of the sugar will be the sugar from milk, and this is not classified as a ‘free sugar’. In these products the total sugar content on nutrition information label should be considered with the ingredient list.”

“It makes good sense to replace sugary drinks with lots of clean safe water”, says Rebone Ntsie. “Drinking lots of clean and safe water is essential for one’s health. Besides keeping you hydrated, it helps with digestion, regulate your body temperature, and to lubricate your joints. Furthermore, tap water is cheaper than any other drinks.”

“There are several ways to increase your intake of water”, says Abigail Courtenay, registered dietitian and spokesperson for ADSA.   “Make sure you always carry water with you; set reminders on your cell phone or notes at your desk every hour; drink water with meals; before and after exercising; and send a bottle of water with your child to school every day. You can also add fresh slices of lemon, cucumber, mint leaves, lime or fresh fruit to your water or unsweetened rooibos or herbal teas to add more flavour.”

On Wednesday, the 11th of October, ADSA (@ADSA_RD) will be hosting a Twitter Talk from 13h00 to 14h00 where dieticians and National Nutrition Week partners will be providing information, tips, ideas and advice on choosing water as the beverage of choice instead of drinking sugary drinks. Join the conversation live on Twitter, and follow the @ADSA_RD handle to get great ideas and tips. The Department of Health in the various provinces will also celebrate National Nutrition Week during the month of October.

For more information on National Nutrition Week 2017, visit the website: http://www.nutritionweek.co.za/


Why breastfeeding and work can, and should, go together

Returning to work after maternity leave rates as one of the top reasons why mothers stop breastfeeding their babies before they should. The 2017 World Breastfeeding Week runs from the 1st to the 7th of August with the aim of uniting all sectors of society in the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding. The campaign, co-ordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), identifies four critical focus areas, one of which is women’s productivity and work.

ADSA_Breastfeeding ImageWorking SA mums are entitled to a minimum of four consecutive months of maternity leave. Many take at least one month of that leave prior to the birth, and then make their return to work when their infants are just around three months old. However, exclusive breastfeeding of an infant from birth to six months is what is recommended as optimal nutrition by the World Health Organisation. Therefore, the only way that working new mums can meet these important health standards is if they can breastfeed or express breast milk for some months at their workplaces.

 

The benefits of creating workplaces that are friendly to nursing mums go beyond just the physical welfare of our new generations. Cath Day, registered dietitian and spokesperson for ADSA (The Association for Dietetics in South Africa) points out: “There is a vast body of scientific research that has shown that breastfeeding, as exclusive nutrition in the first six months and then as a supplementary food for two years and beyond, also protects and benefits the physical health of the mother; while impacting positively on her emotional well-being as she forms the essential bond with her new child. It is clearly in the interests of the employers of child-bearing women to protect, promote and support them during the times when they are breastfeeding because companies need their employees to be healthy and optimally productive.”

ADSA recommends that businesses formalise their support of breastfeeding in the policies, standards and practices of their employee wellness programmes.

So what can businesses do practically to protect and support the nursing mums on their workforce?

  • Uphold the Law – Corporates must recognise and facilitate the legal rights of SA breastfeeding mothers enshrined in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. Up until their babies are six months old, working mums are entitled to two, paid 30-minute breaks every work day for breastfeeding or expressing milk.
  • Know and promote the benefits of breastfeeding – “It helps to have employers who are knowledgeable about why breastfeeding is so important and a commitment to protecting, supporting and promoting breastfeeding in the workplace,” says Cath Day. “As part of the employee wellness programme, registered dietitians can be engaged to make presentations to all staff on the advantages of a breastfeeding-friendly work environment and how to make it happen in your company. The straightforward facts and the inarguable science go a long way to reducing the discomforts and stigmas people might attach to breastfeeding.”
  • Provide the place – Nowadays it is widely regarded as completely unacceptable for breastfeeding mums to have to lock themselves in a public toilet, or their car, to breastfeed or express milk at work because they have nowhere else to go. Many companies realise that a breastfeeding-friendly workplace means providing a secure and comfortable space for working mums to spend their 30-minute breastfeeding breaks. Preferably, this private room should have a door that locks, comfortable seating, plug points for breast pumps and a refrigerator for the safe storage of breast milk.
  • Be flexible and adaptable – Part-time, flexi-time or temporary work-from-home plans can be very effective solutions for breastfeeding mums, and should especially be employed by companies who provide no proper facilities for the legal breastfeeding breaks in their workplace.
  • Offer child-care facilities – A number of progressive companies with a clear focus on employee engagement provide workplace child care facilities for the babies and small children of their employees. This is ideal for breastfeeding mums as they can more easily and quickly breastfeed their infants and need to express less milk.

ADSA spokesperson Zelda Ackerman, whose areas of expertise include baby and child feeding, urges new working mums to know their rights and to get the support that they need from their bosses and colleagues so that going back to work doesn’t become a barrier to the continued breastfeeding of their infant. “It is really important for South Africa as a country to transform to a culture of being breastfeeding-friendly in every environment,” she says, “We have to consider the potential health burdens of being a country with exceptionally low rates of breastfeeding, and turn this trend around. From the family home to the work environment to society at large, breastfeeding mothers need support.”

Zelda’s top tips for breastfeeding mums returning to work include: 

  • Before your return to work, give yourself enough time to get to grips with finding the pump that works best for you and regularly expressing milk – and give your baby enough time to get used to expressed breast milk. Time and practice will help you both to establish this as a stress-free routine before the big change up ahead.
  • Also, ahead of time, build up a stock of breast milk at home – it can be refrigerated and frozen. Stored breast milk should always be dated, and you retain more nutritional quality if you refrigerate it immediately after you have expressed.
  • On your return to work, have straightforward conversations with your bosses and/or team members, as necessary, so that they are clear about your breastfeeding goals and needs. Be clear about your legal right to two, paid 30 minute breastfeeding breaks each working day, and establish with them how this is going to work best for you and what accommodations you will need.
  • If you encounter resistance or lack of support in your workplace, get help rather than give up breastfeeding. Other working mothers in your workplace and HR personnel may help to raise awareness of the importance of your continued breastfeeding. External sources of help can include breastfeeding support organisations and registered dietitians.
  • You can reduce discomfort from engorgement and pace your two breastfeeding breaks optimally at work if you arrange your workday mornings so that you give your baby a good feed that ends just before you leave for work; and then breastfeed your baby again as soon as you get home. Co-ordinate this well with your baby’s caregiver so that they don’t feed the expressed breast milk just before you get home. If you are breastfeeding a baby older than six months of age, make sure your caregiver doesn’t provide late afternoon snacks so that your child is ready for a good breastfeed when you get home from work.
  • Be patient and resilient. Our modern world doesn’t necessarily make breastfeeding easy, natural and stress-free. But it is as important as it has ever been to both you and your baby. The science is clear, the more you can; the better for you, your baby and our society at large.

Salty South Africa – are we doing better after salt legislation?

Despite South Africa passing world-leading legislation to reduce salt intake, too many South Africans eat too much salt, putting themselves at risk of heart disease and strokes. Today is the start of  Salt Awareness Week which runs from 20-26 March.

 

ADSA_Salt week banner

Salt – a forgotten killer

Excess salt intake directly increases blood pressure in most people, and exacerbates high blood pressure in people who already have this condition. “High blood pressure is not only caused by high salt intake, and factors such as genetics, obesity, fruit and vegetable intake, stress, smoking and a lack of exercise all contribute. However, reducing salt intake is a safe, affordable and effective strategy to reduce high blood pressure or avoid developing high blood pressure” says Prof Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA).

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that it’s African region has the highest prevalence of high blood pressure globally. People of African origin are more prone to salt sensitivity, and excess salt is consumed through both liberal addition of salt to meals and as salt hidden in many processed foods. In South Africa, the prevalence of high blood pressure ranges from 30% to as high as 80% in adults over the age of 50 years (1) .

A world-leader in salt reduction

South Africa is ahead of the pack with ground-breaking legislation to limit the salt content of certain foods. June 2016 marked the implementation of these regulations that have reduced salt in commonly consumed foods such as breads, breakfast cereals, and processed meats. So far legislation has been hugely successful with most manufacturers complying, and some products have reduced salt content by 30 to 40%.

What can the food industry do?

During World Salt Awareness Week, WASH and the HSFSA are calling on manufacturers to put less salt in our food, and challenge everyone to read food labels and choose the lower salt options – it’s as easy as that! Salt legislation will reduce salt intake by approximately 0.85 grams per person per day, depending on the individual’s food choices. One study estimated that this level of salt reduction will result in 7 400 fewer cardiovascular deaths and 4 300 fewer non-fatal strokes every year in South Africa (2) .

The WHO recommends that total salt intake should not exceed one teaspoon a day, an amount equal to 5 grams. The average South African eats roughly 8.5 grams of salt per day (range of 6 – 11 grams), with some people eating significantly more than this (3) . Salt legislation is a good start, but it is inadequate to curb excess salt intake.

How do we eat so much salt?

“Salt intake is not easy to measure and is hidden in almost everything we eat, even sweet foods. When adding extra salt in cooking or at the table, all the pinches, shakes and grinds of salt add more salt than we actually need. One take-out meal can triple our salt limit for one day. Even something as simple as a cheese and ham sandwich can provide 2.5 grams of salt, already half the daily limit” says Gabriel Eksteen, Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist at the foundation.

Do YOU eat too much salt?

The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA launched an online salt calculator in 2015 in partnership with Unilever South Africa. This is the easiest way to see how much salt you eat, and which are the main salty culprits in your diet. The calculator has been carefully updated to improve accuracy and to reflect changes after salt legislation. Test your salt intake at www.saltcalculator.co.za . You may be surprised where your salt comes from!

How to reduce salt intake

Total salt intake includes what is already in the food, and what people add to food while preparing or eating the food. Choose foods wisely, keeping an eye out for food products with the Heart Mark logo and eat salty foods less often. How much salt is added at home is completely in the individual’s hands. When using salty ingredients like stock cubes, soy sauce or chicken spice as part of cooking, don’t add any further salt. Taste food while cooking and at the table, and think twice before adding more salt!

ADSA_Change your salty ways

Get tested

One in every two South Africans with high blood pressure remain unaware of their condition. This prevents effective care and increases the risk of heart diseases and strokes. The HSFSA recommends that all adults test their blood pressure at least once every year. The public can get their blood pressure measured for free from 17 March until 9 April at all Dis-Chem pharmacies nationwide.

The next step forward

South African salt legislation will further reduce the salt levels of certain foods by 2019. Yet many foods are excluded from legislation, including fast foods. The HSFSA call on the fast food industry to clearly display the salt content of their meals, and to start reducing the salt content of their offerings. Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at The Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of WASH comments: “Salt damages our health. Salt reduction is the simplest and most cost effective measure to prevent thousands of unnecessary deaths from stroke and heart attacks every year. It is not just down to the individuals; manufactures must stop adding salt to our foods. During World Salt Awareness Week you can do something great for your health by eating less salt“.

 

1) Lloyd-Sherlock P, et al. Hypertension among older adults in low- and middle-income countries: prevalence, awareness and control.
Int J Epidemiol. 2014 Feb;43(1):116-28. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyt215
2) Bertram et al. Reducing the sodium content of high-salt foods: Effect on cardiovascular disease in South Africa. S Afr Med J
2012;102(9):743-745. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.5832
3) Wentzel-Viljoen et al. “Use salt and foods high in salt sparingly”: a food-based dietary guideline for South Africa. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013; 26(3): S105-S113

The Low Down on South Africa’s Sugar Tax

The Minister of Finance announced in the February 2016 National Budget a decision to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), with effect from 1 April 2017, to help reduce excessive sugar intake by South Africans. The Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) welcomes this step as one part of the solution to address the obesity problem and improve the health of South Africans.

How much sugar do South Africans really consume?

When you think of sugar-sweetened beverages, the first thing that comes to mind is the regular fizzy drink, but the term encompasses far more than that. SSBs are beverages containing added sweeteners that provide energy (‘calories’ or kilojoules) such as sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup or fruit-juice concentrates. This includes carbonated drinks (fizzy soft drinks and energy drinks), non-carbonated drinks (sports drinks, iced teas, vitamin water drinks and juice concentrates), sweetened milk drinks and sweetened fruit juices. And many of us do not realise just how much sugar is found in these drinks. For example, a 330 ml bottle of iced tea has a little over 6 teaspoons of sugar!

ADSA is concerned that the intake of added sugars (sugars added to foods and drinks during processing by the food manufacturing companies, cook or consumer) is increasing in South Africa, both in adults and children. Some estimate that children typically consume approximately 40-60 g/day of added sugar, possibly rising to as much as 100 g/day in adolescents. High intakes of added sugar, particularly as SSBs, has been shown to lead to weight gain and cause dental caries. The added sugar in these drinks makes them high in energy (kilojoules). Because these drinks don’t make us feel full in the same way that eating food does, most of us don’t reduce our food intake to compensate, making it easy to consume too many kilojoules. Over time, these extra kilojoules can cause one to become overweight, putting us at risk for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Obesity is already a massive problem in South Africa, with 2 in 3 women and 1 in 3 men being overweight or obese, as well as almost 1 in 4 children.

What is ADSA’s recommendation for sugar intake?

ADSA supports the recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines that we need to reduce the intake of beverages and foods that contain added sugars, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, sweetened yoghurts, frozen desserts, some breakfast cereals, ready-to-use sauces, cereal bars, health, savoury and sweet biscuits, baked products, canned or packaged fruit products, sweets and chocolates. The WHO advises reducing the intake of free sugars found in foods and beverages (including added sugars, but excluding sugars naturally present in fresh fruits, vegetables and milk) to less than 10% of total energy (kilojoule) intake for the day (i.e. 50 g of sugar, which is approximately 12 teaspoons per day), with a conditional recommendation to further reduce intake to 5% of total energy (approximately 6 teaspoons per day) for additional health benefits. The South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines also advise to ‘use sugar and foods and drinks high in sugar sparingly’. To put this into perspective, a 500 ml bottle of a carbonated drink will provide your maximum sugar allowance for an entire day!

The sugar tax – is it a good idea?

The proposed tax on SSBs will mean roughly a 20% tax will be added on to sugary drinks, which is intended to decrease the purchase and consumption of SSBs. Encouragingly, in Mexico, a sugar tax has reduced sugary drink sales by 12% in the first year. The sugar tax is likely to affect shelf prices, but will also motivate manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar added to their products.

ADSA welcomes the proposed tax on SSBs, but acknowledges that the sugar tax is only part of the solution to address the growing obesity problem. Just as taxing tobacco does not reduce or stop smoking by all people, taxing SSBs will not reduce or stop all purchasing and consumption of SSBs and reduce obesity on its own. Obesity is a complex condition, and sugar is not the only cause. There is a need for multiple interventions across a variety of different sectors to address unhealthy diets and lifestyles and have an impact on the obesity epidemic. ADSA recommends that revenue generated from the tax should go towards health promoting interventions, such as subsidies to reduce the costs of fruits and vegetables, education around healthy choices and creating an enabling environment to make those healthier choices easier.

In addition to reducing the consumption of SSBs to prevent obesity and promote long-term health, ADSA continues to recommend a healthy diet which includes whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, healthy oils, proteins such as lean meats and seafood, and a reduced intake of processed meats and salt, accompanied by regular physical activity.

ADSA’s detailed Position Statement on the Proposed Taxation of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, with references, can be accessed here: http://www.adsa.org.za/Portals/14/Documents/2016/Nov/ADSA%20Position%20Statement%20on%20Sugar%20Tax_Final_28%20Nov%202016.pdf

 


Why breastfeeding should be everybody’s business

It is common sense that ‘breast is best’ when it comes to feeding infants and young children. After all, breast milk is uniquely, organically fit for a singular purpose. Yet, South Africa has an extraordinarily low rate of babies breastfeeding exclusively in the first six months of their lives. In fact, at just 8% against a global rate that is almost 40%, the South African statistic is regarded by UNICEF as one of the lowest in the world. (http://www.unicef.org/southafrica/media_10469.htm)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines optimal infant and young child nutrition as breast milk exclusively up until the age of six months; and then breast milk supplemented by safe and appropriate foods up until the age of two years, or beyond. (http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/infantfeeding/9241562218/en/)

“There is a significant body of scientific evidence that informs these global nutritional guidelines and attests to the many benefits of breastfeeding when it comes to the health and well-being of not just baby, but Mum as well,” says Cath Day, ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa’s) spokesperson. “For instance, new research presented in The Lancet, an international medical journal, states that optimal breastfeeding could save the lives of 823 000 children a year, and there’s substantial evidence that breastfeeding can help to ward off breast and ovarian cancers in mothers too.”

With World Breastfeeding Week spanning the 1st to the 7th of August, we face the reality that the majority of women all over the world, but particularly in South Africa, don’t meet accepted international, or national, nutritional guidelines for breastfeeding their babies because they experience strong, often, culturally-institutionalised barriers to breastfeeding. And, that is why we all have a part of play in transforming the country into an enabling environment that properly supports, encourages and upholds breastfeeding mothers.

Over the past years, South Africa has taken steps to rectify the provision of inaccurate information by health care providers and implemented measures to mitigate the aggressive corporate marketing of breast milk substitutes which undermine breastfeeding. In addition, the country’s employment laws have enshrined the rights of mothers with infants under six months, who have had to return to work, to take two 30-minute breaks during work hours to express milk. (http://www.labour.gov.za/DOL/downloads/legislation/acts/basic-conditions-of-employment/Amended%20Act%20-%20Basic%20Conditions%20of%20Employment.pdf)

But clearly this is not enough, as reviews show we have stagnated at the exceedingly low rate of 8% for years on the most important marker of infant nutrition.

“The proper support needed to achieve the scale of breastfeeding that would meet global guidelines and significantly improve infant mortality in South Africa has to be multi-level and multi-pronged,” says Thembekile Dlamini, also a Registered Dietitian and ADSA spokesperson. “That is why breastfeeding should rather be viewed as ‘everybody’s business’ versus an activity that a mother feels she needs to guard and hide, perhaps even in her own home, family environment, workplace and community. A positive attitude to breastfeeding needs to permeate all aspects of South African society, across all socio-economic levels.”

This highlights the reality that breastfeeding as the source of optimal and exclusive infant nutrition is unfortunately, too often, transformed from a natural, basically unremarkable human activity securely bolstered not just by straightforward good sense but by modern scientific evidence too, into a contentious nutritional fashion or a fad, buffeted by fleeting, often self-serving opinions, agendas and perceptions.

Everyday barriers that breastfeeding women experience range from partners who are unsupportive due to self-interest to grandparents who morally disapprove of public breastfeeding. Corporate environments may not provide suitable facilities, nor accept the routines for lactating mothers who are back at work.

Let’s find ways and work together to support women who are trying to give their children the best start in life:

  • Fathers and partners who are informed about the benefits of breastfeeding and supportive of a breastfeeding mother can have a major influence on successful outcomes
  • Other family members, particularly grandmothers and aunts, who a mother might turn to for advice and support also have a considerable influence to bear when it comes to encouraging or discouraging breastfeeding
  • Mothers also often rely on advice and support from their friends, especially those who might be more practiced mothers than they are. While there is much value in friends’ sharing their experiences of motherhood, the breastfeeding advice you give should be objective. Mothers who are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding should be encouraged to get professional help before considering giving it up
  • Employers can support breastfeeding mothers who have returned to work to establish a routine to express milk in private and comfortable surrounds

 

Breastfeeding support is available in South Africa:

  • Mothers can obtain professional help with breastfeeding from lactation consultants, who are health professionals with advanced training in breastfeeding support http://www.salactationconsultants.co.za/index.php
  • La Leche League South Africa is a voluntary organisation which provides information and support to women who want to breastfeed their babies. La Leche League Leaders are experienced breastfeeding mothers, trained and accredited by LLL, who are happy to help other mothers with questions and concerns about breastfeeding http://www.llli.org/southafrica.html
  • Milk Matters is a community-based breast milk bank that pasteurises and distributes donations of screened breast milk from healthy donors to premature, ill and vulnerable babies whose own mothers cannot supply the breast milk to meet their baby’s needs. Their website has valuable information for breastfeeding mothers http://milkmatters.org/breastfeeding-breastmilk/

 

Breastfeeding provides the foundation for lifelong health and wellbeing. This year, the World Breastfeeding Week theme is ‘Breastfeeding: A Key to Sustainable Development’. The website is packed with useful and interesting information on wide range of positive impacts of breastfeeding on society and the planet http://www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org/resources.shtml