A workshop, acting as a platform for the Ministry of Health and Wellness to renew with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders who are embarked on a mission to inform the population about the links between their health and breastfeeding, was held, yesterday, at the Victoria Hospital in Candos. One of the main objectives of this workshop was to raise awareness among young people on the importance of breastfeeding and its positive contribution to a healthier planet.
The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Kailesh Kumar Singh Jagutpal, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Mauritius, Dr Laurent Musango, and other personalities were present at the opening ceremony.
In his address, Dr Jagutpal highlighted that the World Breastfeeding Week offers every stakeholder to focus on the need to protect, promote and support breastfeeding, which is a gift from a mother to her child and impacts on the health of the planet and of its people. He pointed out that breast milk is considered a baby's first vaccine, providing the child with a protective umbrella while his/her immune system is still developing.
Furthermore, the Minister underscored that breastfed babies are healthier and are less likely to need excessive medical attention as they grow. The WHO, he added, recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and paediatricians agree on several medical advantages associated to maternal milk. They are, among others, better neurological development of the child and a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer for the mother.
Government, underlined Dr Jagutpal, also took bold and concrete measures to further encourage breastfeeding. For instance, mothers are now granted permission to nurse their babies even after their maternity leave. In addition, Health Care Centres at Tombeau Bay and Petite Rivière have been equipped with breastfeeding rooms and this service will be extended to other hospitals and Health Care Centres around the island.
For his part, Dr Musango stressed that while breastfeeding is a natural process, it is not always easy and mothers need support to get started and sustain breastfeeding. Skilled counselling services, he pointed out, can thus ensure that mothers and families receive this support, along with the information, the advice, and the reassurance they need to nourish their babies optimally.
In addition, he added that breastfeeding counselling can help mothers to build confidence while respecting their individual circumstances and choices. These women will be thus empowered to overcome challenges, while at the same time, prevent feeding and care practices that may interfere with optimal breastfeeding, such as the provision of unnecessary liquids, food, and breastmilk substitutes to infants and young children.
World Breastfeeding Week
The World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year during the first week of August in more than 170 countries to commemorate the 1990 Innocenti Declaration made by the World Health Organization and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) during that same month in 1990. The objective is to promote, support and sustain breastfeeding. Likewise, in Mauritius, this event is celebrated each year since 1993 and different activities are organised so as to encourage breastfeeding through strengthened sensitisation campaigns with a view to improving the health of babies and mothers.
The theme for this year is "Support Breastfeeding for a healthier planet".