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JIS News

National Breastfeeding Week is being observed from September 16 to 22 under the theme, “Breastfeeding: The 1st Hour – Save One Million Babies”.
Dr. Eva Lewis-Fuller, Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health and Environment told JIS News that the theme underlines the importance of putting the baby to the breast shortly after birth. This, she further said, gives the infant the necessary nutrition, warmth and protection that is required.
“What we have realized is that establishing breastfeeding early really helps mother and baby to have a successful breastfeeding relationship henceforth. The longer you wait to put the baby on the breast, the more likely it is that the baby will not accept it,” the Director informed.
“The baby is born with a sucking reflex which allows it to find the breast. If you put the baby on your chest they will find the breast and start sucking automatically and instinctively. If they are not put on the breast early enough they will lose that reflex and that instinctive behavior,” she expounded.By putting the baby to the breast in the first hour also ensures successful breastfeeding for six months at least, which is what is required. “Mothers should feed their babies exclusively with the breast for at least 6 months,” the Director insisted.
While acknowledging there was a problem for many mothers to breastfeed once returning to work, Dr. Lewis -Fuller urged mothers to express the breast milk and properly store it.
“Breast milk contains the ideal food for the baby in those early months .the ideal nutrition which we realize will prevent the baby getting chronic diseases later on in life and the more immediate time frame,” she noted.
Elaborating, Dr. Lewis-Fuller said that after breastfeeding, the newborn is protected from infection. “The baby [is temporarily] immunized because the colostrum, which is the first milk contains what is called immunoglobins or factors that confer immunity on the babies at least temporarily for a few months, so it is very important that mothers breastfeed babies and do so early” she stated.Meanwhile the week will begin with a church service at the May Pen Seventh Day Adventist Church on Fernleigh Ave in Clarendon, starting at 10:30 a.m.
“We try to rotate the locations, as most of the time activities are centred in Kingston and our colleagues say to us that Kingston is not Jamaica,” the Director said. Other church services will be held across the island.
An official launch of the week will take place on September 17 at the May Pen Hospital in Clarendon at 10:30 a.m. Top health officials are expected to attend. In addition, a breastfeeding exposition will be unveiled following the launch.
There will be a ‘baby friendly’ seminar in the Conference Room of the Manchester Health Department at 10:00 a.m. on September 18.
On September 20 there will be a National Breastfeeding quiz for mothers and fathers in the main lobby of the Ministry of Health and Environment located on King Street in Kingston. “We will seek to reinforce some of the facts about breast feeding among parents,” Dr. Lewis -Fuller noted.
Throughout the week, health centres will have displays focusing on breastfeeding and educational materials will also be distributed.
Breastfeeding Week is celebrated internationally. While most countries usually observe it in the first week of August, Jamaica has opted to celebrate it in the third week of September so as to prevent it coinciding with Emancipation and Independence Day celebrations.
Breastfeeding Week has been celebrated for more than a decade and is a collaborative effort with the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.