The Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations is working towards yet another initiative that of achieving “Baby Friendly Hospital Status” at its main hospitals. The baby friendly hospital status is a global initiative to promote, protect and support breast feeding.
A three day workshop involving Hospital Administrators, Heads of Departments, Nurses and Health Educators organised by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) was held October 12-14 to sensitize officials on the baby friendly hospital initiative.
Senior Technical Officer for Food Security and Nutrition at CARPHA, Christine Bocage said the workshop was geared at sensitizing participants on the international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes and the steps to attaining the baby friendly hospital status, “how it relates to the way they function in the hospital. What practices they do now and what practices they may need to change so they can attain this status.” Bocage stated.
The CARPHA Official is also promoting breast feeding as the optimum method of feeding babies for the first six months of their life. “So there is a code that protects babies who are going to be breast fed..the code also protects babies who formula feed. So it’s really a code on the marketing of the product not on the manufacturing of the product.
So we want to make sure mothers who can breast feed there isn’t spill over from formula companies to lure them into using formula because the breast milk has everything that the baby needs. And for those who must formula feed or those who may decide that they are not going to breast feed we want to ensure that whatever commercial formula that we suggest to them is within the code that 118 countries signed onto in 1981 and off-course the declarations that followed.”
Chief Nutritionist in the Ministry of Health, Lisa Hunt-Mitchell said the workshop was also conducted against the backdrop of a Multiple Indicator Cluster (MICS) Survey which reflected a decline national breast feeding rates.
“Knowing the importance of breast feeding as the optimal nutrition for children we would like to ensure that breast feeding rates increase especially exclusive breast feeding which is breast feeding children from zero to six months without giving the children anything else even water. We also would like to have an infant and young child feeding policy because of the importance of breast feeding where it can actually prevent children from becoming obese.” Hunt-Mitchell stated.
The Chief Nutritionist says come next year the public should look forward to an aggressive breast feeding promotional campaign particularly to combat some myths about breast feeding.
“We have our myths where parents will say the breast milk is not sufficient for the child but a child’s stomach is so small. A new born’s stomach is only four teaspoons…We also have parents who believe they have to purge after they have a baby and that can prevent them from giving breast milk at that time and off-course once you break the pattern of breast feeding exclusive breast feeding is no longer.
We also have issues where mothers will not take the HIV test and so while they are having the HIV test done just after they give birth the child is not being breast feed and so they may be formula fed…We also have the grandmothers who might be encouraging the children to give them Arrowroot…We also have the young people who believe their breast will sag and sometimes breasts sag even before you have a child so having a child is not the reason why your breast sag…We dont want these excuses to be reasons for not breast feeding children because of the importance of breast feeding.” Hunt-Michel stressed.
She added among the benefits of breast feeding is it helps mothers get back in shape much quicker and it provides all the nutrition that the child requires from zero to six months.