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JIS News

The Ministry of Health and Environment is reporting that only 50 per cent of mothers are exclusively breastfeeding their babies past the first six weeks of birth.
Data has revealed that by the time the child is three months old, there is a further fall off to 30 per cent. This is despite the recommendation by the Ministry for exclusive breastfeeding up to six months.
“We are not very happy with the compliance rate for exclusive breastfeeding,” Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry, Dr. Eva Lewis-Fuller told JIS News.
This is of special concern for the Ministry as 90 per cent of mothers do start out exclusively breastfeeding, but fail to maintain this for the six months or longer.
“We have been trying to encourage mothers to improve this rate because it is so important that babies get the ideal nutrition early in life to prevent malnutrition, gastroenteritis and some of those ‘immunizable’ diseases like measles. For a few months they are protected from what we immunize against,” she pointed out, adding that the child would have to be immunized against some diseases.
Dr. Lewis-Fuller said that the Ministry would like the compliance rate to improve to at least 70 per cent at six weeks after birth and as such, it has been implementing various initiatives to make this a reality.
“One of the recommendations is that when the baby is born, the baby should be given to mother within 30 minutes just for her to hold that baby and keep the baby warm and snuggle up. Then within the hour start the baby breastfeeding,” she explained.
To this end, the Ministry has been asking nurses to defer the usual routine of bathing and taking the baby away and placing it in a basinet after delivery.
“Besides education during anti-natal clinics, we show how to care for the breast and how to treat the nipple especially for first time mothers who can have some tenderness of the nipple and prepare them for breast feeding,” she said.
“We also encourage their family members particularly the spouse or the father of the child to help mothers to breastfeed. Sometimes fathers are not encouraging because there all kind of myths about breastfeeding affecting the shape of the mother and so on, but we can assure them that the benefit of breastfeeding far outweighs any negatives,” Dr. Lewis-Fuller posited.
In addition, the Ministry has been appealing to companies and organisations to accommodate mothers with newborns when they return to work.
“They can give them time off to go home and breastfeed even once during the day at lunch time .have a kind of extended lunch time. They can also have daycare facilities where mothers can actually bring their babies to a location close to the workplace, where they can slip across to breastfeed,” she stated.
National Breastfeeding Week is being observed from September 15 to 22 under the theme, “Breastfeeding: The 1st Hour – Save One Million Babies”.
During the week the focus will be on training health workers as well as educating the public about the benefits of breastfeeding.