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JIS News

To encourage breastfeeding among new mothers, the Ministry of Health has officially certified 10 hospitals and health facilities around the island as being baby friendly.
They are the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Spanish Town, Linstead, Princess Margaret, Cornwall Regional, Andrew’s Memorial and Doctor’s Hospitals, Bustamante Hospital for Children, University Hospital of the West Indies, and the Faith Maternity Centre. Speaking to JIS recently, Director of the Nutrition Unit in the Ministry, Charmaine Edwards, explained that the baby friendly hospital initiative was jointly launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and intended for implementation in countries worldwide.
She explained that the initiative is geared towards “hospitals and health facilities, particularly those offering maternity services, to adopt practices which fully protect, promote and support exclusive breastfeeding from birth”.
While Jamaica has previously taken steps to start a national baby friendly campaign, along with other countries, the present version of the WHO/UNICEF-approved initiative is based on 10 steps to successful breastfeeding.
The Director said that in essence, the steps would act as a summary of the guidelines for health facilities and hospitals to practise.
Outlining the actual steps, Mrs. Edwards said that a facility should institute a written breastfeeding policy routinely, which should be communicated to all healthcare staff regularly; healthcare staff should be trained in the skills necessary to implement the policy; all pregnant women should be informed about the benefits and the management of breastfeeding; mothers are to be assisted in initiating breastfeeding within a half an hour of birth; mothers are to be shown how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infant.
The other five steps, she informed JIS News, specified that newborn infants should not be given any food or drink other than breast milk unless it is medically indicated; rooming is to be practised, that is, mothers and infants should remain together 24 hours a day; breastfeeding is to be encouraged on demand; no artificial teats or pacifiers are to be used to begin breastfeeding infants; and finally, there should be the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and mothers should be referred to these groups on discharge from the hospitals or clinics.
Mrs. Edwards pointed out that a number of other hospitals were also in the process of being awarded baby friendly status, with the Mandeville Regional Hospital already given a certificate of commitment, on account of taking steps toward becoming baby friendly.
She also noted that the Annotto Bay, St. Ann’s Bay, Alexandria, Savanna-la-Mar, and Black River Hospitals are also seeking similar status.
In order for a hospital or health facility to be deemed baby friendly, the institution is required to conduct a self-appraisal.
“After the facility is satisfied that it meets the standard, this achievement is then confirmed by using the internationally agreed standards. An external evaluation of the facility is then done, which could lead to the facility being awarded a global friendly plaque,” Mrs. Edwards said.