The Ministry of Health and Wellness is working on a National Action Plan on Breastfeeding whose objective is to gradually increase the percentage of breastfeeding to 50%. Much progress has already been made and the National Action Plan will be made public shortly.
This announcement was made, today, by the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Kailesh Kumar Jaguptal, at the opening of a one-day workshop organised in the context of the World Breastfeeding Week 2021 held at Caudan Arts Centre, Port Louis.
Dr Jagutpal emphasised that it is essential for policy makers, health care professionals, parents and the society at large to support and allow mothers to rekindle the strong bond of breastfeeding between themselves and their babies. He recalled that Government is sparing no efforts to encourage mothers to prioritise breastfeeding for up to two years, after giving birth, alongside safe and adequate complementary food.
Lauding the benefits of breast milk, he pointed out that it provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and is provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula, he said.
Furthermore, he underlined that breast milk contains antibodies that help the baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea, he added. As regards benefits of breastfeeding for the mother, the Health Minister highlighted that it confers protection against breast and ovarian cancers, postpartum depression, obesity, as well as uterine and endometrial cancers.
Several measures have been implemented by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to increase breastfeeding. They include: setting up of a network of primary health care centres around Mauritius; continuous professional development of health care workers; boosting of Health Informtion, Education and Communication programmes on ante-natal and post-natal care and breastfeeding; launching of Maternal and Child Handbook aimed at protecting the health of mothers and children. Furthermore, the Ministry is also implementing a well-defined National Roadmap aimed at improving maternal, newborn and child health.
Also present, the Officer-in-Charge of the World Health Organisation, Mr A. Nundoochan, dwelt on the importance of breastfeeding both for the mother and the child. He however deplored that in spite of global efforts, actions and strategies, not much improvement has been noted over the past two decades. He stated that three out of five babies are not breastfed in the first hour of life and that two out of three infants around the world are still not being exclusively breastfed. Over 820 000 children aged less than five years could have been saved yearly if only they were optimally breastfed in the first 23 months of their lives, he said.
World Breastfeeding Week
Every year the world marks Breastfeeding Week from August 1 to August 7. It is celebrated to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed in August 1990 by government policymakers, World Health Organisation, UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) and other organisations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
World Breastfeeding Week is marked every year with a particular theme. This year, the theme for breastfeeding week is "Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility". The focus is on how breastfeeding contributes to the survival, health and wellbeing of all, and why it is imperative to protect breastfeeding worldwide.
Current global rates of breastfeeding
Globally, 44% of newborns are put to the breast within the first hour after birth. However, this average masks dramatic disparities in breastfeeding rates across countries. The overall rate of exclusive breastfeeding for infants under six months of age is 40%. Only 23 countries have achieved at least 60% of infants less than six months being exclusively breastfed. This problem is particularly seen in the Americas, where only six percent of the countries have an exclusive breastfeeding rate above 60%.