Jewish women are less interested in breastfeeding their babies than their Arab counterparts, according to a public survey just released by the Health Ministry to correspond with Israel Breastfeeding Week (the international day will be marked in August). While 97.7 percent of pregnant Arab women said they intend to breastfeed after delivery (at least for a while), 88.4% of Jewish women said so.

As more time passed after delivery and some women went back to work, the rate of breastfeeding declined. However, a year after giving birth, 88.2% of all the women said they would breastfeed their next babies as well. The Health Ministry said it aims at turning well-baby (tipat halav) stations around the country into places where nurses would be specially trained to encourage breastfeeding and that rooms in the stations would be set aside for breastfeeding. Women with difficulty breastfeeding will be taught by the nurses, the ministry said. At present, advice on breastfeeding is provided during the few short days mothers are in hospital obstetrics departments or by paid breastfeeding counselors elsewhere.

Every well-baby station will, it is hoped, at at least one nurse on hand to provide breastfeeding advice.

The survey included 1,074 Jewish women and 1,045 Arab women who gave birth between September 2009 and February 2010. Of the women who did not intend to breastfeed, the reasons given were that it was difficult, they had “no milk” or that they had “health problems.”

Half of the Jewish women asked to breastfeed their babies when they were in the obstetrics ward, compared to 63.9% of the Arab women; the rest asked nurses to give bottles of baby formula at night or other times. In a small number of cases, babies were bottle fed without the mothers being asked if they wanted to breastfeed.

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