Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health (MOH), Dr. Eva Lewis-Fuller, is adamant that medical institutions involved in the delivery and care of infants, must become certified under the baby-friendly hospital initiative.
This means that operators of the institutions must ensure that they maintain supportive health care practices crucial to breastfeeding promotion, and adhere to international standards mandated by the programme.
“It is the policy of the Government that every hospital, where deliveries are taking place, should become baby friendly; no choice, not a voluntary thing, not resting on the whims and fancies of any member of staff,” she maintained.
Dr. Lewis-Fuller made the assertion Thursday (May 13) at the National Stakeholders’ Sensitisation meeting on the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), at Eden Gardens, Kingston. The programme was organised by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF).
Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Eva Lewis-Fuller (left), makes a point to Director of Nutrition in the Ministry, Sharmaine Edwards (right), during a National Stakeholders’ Sensitisation meeting on the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) at Eden Gardens in Kingston Thursday (May 13).
She said that, at present, although the national policy asks that all medical institutions become certified, only a few have stepped forward.
“I think now is the time that we must move beyond that and make all those kinds of institutions baby friendly, accommodating breastfeeding, while the child is there, accommodating the mother to be there with the child, around the clock,” she said.
Additionally Dr. Lewis-Fuller argued that it should not be left up to the institutions to decide whether or not they want to be re-certified, but it should be mandated.
Assistant Director of Nursing at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), Ms. Pauline Lovindeer, said the first step in achieving the baby-friendly hospital initiative is for the management of every institution to adopt a policy.
Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Eva Lewis-Fuller (centre) in discussion with Director of Nutrition in the Ministry, Sharmaine Edwards (right) and Infant and Young Child Feeding Specialist at the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF), Kenneth Russell, at a National Stakeholders’ Sensitisation meeting on the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) at Eden Gardens, Kingston on Thursday (May 13).
“Policies have to be enacted and become meaningful through the Heads.We can make as many policies as we wish, but unless the Heads sanction those policies they will not go forward,” she said.
She explained that the policy involves 10 basic steps, including the regulation that every facility providing maternity services and care for newborns must have a written breastfeeding strategy, that is routinely communicated to all health care staff and that staff must be trained in order to implement the plan.
Providing an overview of the National Infant and Young Child Feeding Programme, Director of Nutrition in the Ministry, Mrs. Sharmaine Edwards, emphasised that it seeks to have mothers making the best choices for their children.
She informed that the project is guided by the international standards put forward by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, which includes the suggestion of exclusive breastfeeding for newborn infants for the first six months.
“This is to follow with appropriate and safe complementary foods, with continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond,” she said.
She also cautioned health care professionals from giving mothers the misguided notion that it is acceptable to feed babies breast milk substitutes. She said they should feed infants no food or drink other than breast milk for the first six months, unless medically indicated.
To achieve its objective and sensitise the public, the Ministry has launched a two-year exclusive breastfeeding pilot project at four health facilities in two main parishes – Clarendon and St. Catherine.
The two-year project, which commenced in May 2009, is seeking to increase the exclusive breastfeeding rates in the parishes by at least five per cent.
There is also a nutrition surveillance pilot being carried out in the Kingston and St. Andrew region, with 10 health centres involved, to strengthen the nutrition surveillance system in Jamaica.
Mrs. Edwards said that data collected in 2008 revealed that the rates for exclusive breastfeeding for Jamaica were way below international standards. They were at 43.4 per cent for the first six weeks and 33.7 per cent for the first three months. The globally accepted rate is 70 per cent at least at six weeks.
Infant and Young Child feeding Specialist at UNICEF, Mr. Kenneth Russell, told health care professionals at the meeting that the objectives under the baby-friendly hospital initiative, and the exclusive breastfeeding project, had tremendous benefits for the health sector and were quite practical.
“We have experiences from other countries that suggest to us that this is doable. In Cuba, for example, they made 49 of their 56 hospitals baby friendly and the results they saw was an increase in exclusive breastfeeding from 25 per cent to 72 per cent,” he revealed.