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National Breastfeeding Week, is being observed from September 21 to 26, under the theme: ‘Mother Support: Going for the Gold.’
“Six million lives a year are being saved by exclusive breastfeeding. This is why the theme for breastfeeding week, ‘Mother Support: Going for the Gold’, calls for increased family, community and organisational support, for mothers to ensure the gold standard in infant feeding,” Senior Medical Officer (SMO), at the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, Dr. Horace Betton, has said.
He was speaking on behalf of the Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, at the official launch of the Week, at the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital on September 22.
“The gold standard is achieved when a child is exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding and addition of the appropriate complimentary foods for up to two years,” Dr. Betton pointed out.
The SMO said that the Health and Environment Ministry, recognised the importance of having a supportive environment to foster breastfeeding and to this end, “we have embarked on making our hospitals baby friendly institutions, whereby mothers are supported and feel comfortable breastfeeding.”
He pointed out that there are 10 hospitals that have been certified as baby friendly. “However, we must also be cognisant of the need for the support of a strong network of family and friends. When this is in place, mothers are more likely to maintain breastfeeding, even in situations where difficulties arise,” Dr. Betton said.
With the Ministry’s aim to continue pursuing policies and programmes that support breastfeeding, Dr. Betton informed that a pilot study would commence in October, to investigate breastfeeding rates.
“Additionally, 16 health workers were trained as assessors islandwide, as part of a baby friendly initiative to help certify and re-certify hospitals,” he said, noting that everyone has a role to play in supporting and promoting breastfeeding, as it is an invaluable gift that would ensure healthy mothers, healthy babies and a healthy nation.