Wednesday, 18 December 2013

@shjbabyfriendly UAE’s first ever session on reducing Autism cases via Breastfeeding shifts Autism fight from Therapy to Prevention

Breastfeeding mothers have 36% more plasma and 23% more salivary oxytocin to combat Autism occurrence in their children , as Sharjah Baby-Friendly Campaign gives mothers fresh hope of preventing disorders

After years of focusing on Autism therapy for affected children, the UAE is now shifting its focus towards preventing Autism - or at least minimizing the number of cases. This comes after Sharjah Baby Friendly Campaign led the country’s first ever session focused exclusively on how to lower a child’s risk of developing Autism Spectrum Disorders through Breastfeeding.

The session was conducted at the Human Lactation Conference, held at Rashid Hospital in Dubai. It was presented by Manal Abou Fakher, whose decade of experience in the UAE has involved helping mothers to embrace all aspects of lactation and enlisting the support of public health facilities. Her in-depth expertise in Pediatrics has given her valuable interaction with autistic children.

Children with Autism often struggle with emotional bonding, which is facilitated by the oxytocin system. However, it has been found that breastfed children have higher oxytocin levels, boosting their chances of evading Autism. Medical researchers have further confirmed that breastfeeding significantly strengthens the nervous system of both the child and its mother.

Manal Abou Fakher, who currently serves as Coordinator of Educational Material for Sharjah Baby-Friendly Campaign, told delegates at the convention: “On the negative side, Autism and other behavioral and developmental disorders are on the rise in the UAE. But on the positive side, researchers have uncovered highly compelling evidence that mothers have the power to reduce the number of Autism cases -- contradicting previous beliefs that Autism is impossible to prevent or treat. We now know that Autism is caused by a combination of physical and social factors. While the breast milk nutrients lower the risk from a physical perspective, the emotional bonding during breastfeeding also lowers the risk from a social angle.”

Autism Spectrum Disorders are a range of disorders that impair a child’s social interaction, communication and imagination. While many cases remain undiagnosed in the UAE, medical experts believe the total number is similar to other advanced countries with similar lifestyles - such as the US, where 1 in 150 children is affected according to the Center for Disease Prevention. 

Commenting after the session, Dr Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Director of the Executive Committee of the Sharjah Baby Friendly Emirate Campaign gave her assessment of the Autism challenges in the UAE: “Although there is a lot that we are still learning about Autism, it’s safe to say that one mother can do more to prevent Autism in her child than all the doctors combined. Once a child is diagnosed with Autism, we should still do everything possible to help them contribute positively to society. But if we only focus on therapy, we are missing half the story: prevention is always better than cure.”


The Sharjah Baby Friendly Emirate Campaign was initiated in March 2012 under the generous patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Budoor bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and President of the Campaign. The campaign encompasses four initiatives: Breastfeeding-Friendly Nurseries, Mother and Baby-Friendly Public Places, Mother-Friendly Workplaces and Baby-Friendly Health Facilities. The campaign is sponsored by Sharjah Islamic Bank.

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