7 August 2017

Botswana: Breast Feeding Reduces Infant Mortality-Makgato

Thamaga — Breast feeding has high impact intervention that protects children from common causes of death, including complications from prematurity, says the minister of Health and Wellness Ms Dorcas Makgato.

Speaking during commemoration of the World Breast Feeding Week in Thamaga on August 3, Minister Makgato challenged all to act together to protect mothers and babies from factors hindering or constraining the practice of breastfeeding.

She dismissed misleading information that there were barriers hindering lactating women from initiating and continuing breast feeding such as, inconsistent information and lack of support to nursing mothers, insufficient maternity leave, facilities at work not supportive of breast feeding, negative emotions about breast feeding, among others arguing that failure to breast-feeding was an individual choice.

"It goes without saying that breast-feeding supports health growth and development of infants and young children. New borns, infants and young children survive and thrive well when they are fed with breast-milk," advised the minister.

Minister Makgato highlighted the fact that Kweneng DHMT, with the largest population of 23 000 under-fives after greater Gaborone had high malnutrition rates, an indicator of child feeding practices, hence the decision by the ministry to choose Kweneng East as host for this year's commemoration.

Ms Makgatho also the Member of Parliament for Ramokgonami/Sefhare said there was need for multi-sectoral approach across sectors to support breast-feeding, advocacy and implementation of programmes by engaging nutrition, health, labour and finance advocates.

"Despite the significant protective benefits of breast-feeding, misconception about breast-feeding and appropriate infant feeding are common, and there is a general lack of knowledge about breast-feeding or support for mothers attempting a nursing relationship", said the minister.

She also briefed the audience about the ministry's initiatives which aim to implement baby-friendly health care system that promote, protect and support breast-feeding, such as baby- mother friendly hospital initiative as well as training health workers on breasfeeding, counselling and infant feeding in the context of HIV/AIDS.

United Nations International Children Emergency Fund UNICEF's Ms Julianna Lindsey said although there was need for change of cultural practices to improve society, it was important to exercise caution not to throw away helpful cultural practices without considering all the implications.

Breast- feeding she said was more nutritious than formula, or artificial milk products as they were not a good substitute for mother's milk.

"This is how we would help our babies survive the health challenges they can so easily survive as babies, and this is how we will help them develop well in their brain and bodies to reach their potential", highlighted Ms Lindsey.

Meanwhile, Thamaga/Kumakwane Member of Parliament Mr Tshenolo Mabeo, has challenged men to understand the importance of breast-feeding in the development and infant growth.

The minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development has emphasised the need for supporting health initiatives through constant conveyance of relevant messages to improve and sustain the country's economy by reducing child mortality rate.

Source : BOPA

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