Seychelles Sets Out to Increase Breastfeeding to Reach 50% Target

Breastfeeding provides essential nutrients to newborns and infants, which translate to proper growth and development from childhood to adulthood. There are many benefits to breastfeeding for both infants and mothers.

Seychelles is aiming to increase its number of exclusively breastfed babies to 50 percent by the year 2025, said a health official at the launch of the Breastfeeding Week on Monday.

World Breastfeeding Week 2022 is being held under the theme "Step up for Breastfeeding - Educate and Support" from August 1-7.

The event has been celebrated since 1991 in over 120 countries, including Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Its aim is to emphasise the benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and babies.

Michelle Fred, the manager of the child health care programme, said that in order to achieve this goal "we have to update our breastfeeding policy as we plan to relaunch our baby-friendly programme at the hospital."

"We are working with everyone in the community to increase our breastfeeding numbers and reach the 50 percent target we have set for ourselves," she added.

A series of activities will be held during the week including talks and interviews on the local media to educate people about the benefits of breastfeeding infants for the first six months of their lives.

However, challenges remain for mothers who are working as according to the country's labour law, only three months maternity leave is given to an employed mother.

There will also be activities for new mothers visiting the ante-natal clinics which Fred said is aimed at empowering the mothers through education.

In the Seychelles 2022-2026 National Health strategic plan, there is a call to create a supportive environment for breastfeeding in workplaces, and fully implement the code of marketing of breast-milk substitutes, to protect and promote breastfeeding.

Another step to achieve the goal is to relaunch the protecting child healthcare and education programme. The team run by Gina Laporte supports the clinical work being done in the field by providing training to parents.

"The new parenting programme will also teach the new mothers how to breastfeed as we firmly believe in the practical side of education," said Laporte.

To complete the holistic approach to providing infants with a good start, the social services department held a snapshot study to better understand the situation among teenage mothers.

The research was held in the Perseverance district in February of this year. Twenty-two teenage mothers were interviewed about a series of topics from the childcare they received to the amount of time they dedicated to playing with their babies.

"We chose Perseverance specifically because the inhabitants there come from various districts in Seychelles," said senior social worker, Beryl Laboudallon.

The preliminary data collected in the study will also be used to draft further policies.

In her address at the launching, health minister Peggy Vidot said that "health communities and workplace sectors are to provide a continuum of care during these first critical 1,000 days of an infant's life."

As for the theme of this year's Breastfeeding Week, she said that it places "emphasis on the fact that governments, health systems and workplaces should be conformed, educated and empowered to build up their capacities to provide and sustain breastfeeding friendly environments for families in the post-pandemic world."

The annual event is held by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) - a global network of individuals and organisations dedicated to the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding worldwide.

The organisation has aligned its campaign with the United Nations' Sustainable Development goals since 2016.

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