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26.10.2004 Regional News

Greater Accra Regional Breastfeeding Week launched

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Accra, Oct. 26, GNA - Health workers should encourage mothers, who deliver in their facilities to start breastfeeding their newborn babies within the first 30 minutes after delivery once there is no medical problem.

"It is our duty to ensure that newborn babies are not given food or drink, including infant formula, glucose or even water," Mrs Irene Agyapong, Greater Accra Regional (GAR) Director of Health Services, said on Tuesday in a speech read for her in Accra at the launch of the Region's Breastfeeding Week.

"It is important to promote breastfeeding until the baby is two years old or more - health workers should promote appropriate weaning practices through gradual introduction of local foods after the baby is six months old," she said.

The breastfeeding awareness week celebration is under the theme: "Exclusive Breastfeeding: The Gold Standard - Safe, Sound and Sustainable." The "Golden Bow", a worldwide symbol for exclusive breastfeeding, was also launched at the ceremony.

The World Health Organisation and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched Global Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in 1991 to promote breastfeeding all over the world.

Mrs Agyapong noted that currently 86 health facilities were baby friendly out of which GAR had 14. She said staff of the "non-baby friendly ones" were being trained and retrained for assessment in subsequent designation and urged the institutions to join in the crusade to promote optimal breastfeeding practices.

A study in 1993 showed that, even though, the majority of mothers breastfed their babies for 18 months or more, several poor practices existed which contributed to the unacceptably high infant morbidity and mortality rates.

Some of the poor practices included giving newborn babies glucose water, porridge, infant formula, herbal concoctions and water before their first breastfeeding, the use of feeding bottles and infant feeding formula to feed babies and discouraging exclusive breastfeeding by health workers.

She explained that the collective efforts of the health sector had succeeded in raising exclusive breastfeeding rates from two per cent in 1988 for four months to 53 per cent for six months nationally in the 2003 Demographic Health Survey Report.

Mrs Agyapong said a breastfeeding policy would be developed and routinely communicated to all health care staff for easy reference by all staff and the public.

"Free supplies of breast milk substitutes, including infant formula, canned or bottled baby food, (meant to be distributed to mothers) should not be accepted since it would undermine the policy." Sheikh Ibrahim C. Quaye, Greater Accra Regional Minister, said exclusive breastfeeding for babies could help achieve optimal growth development and health.

He said the possible non-development of the full brain potential, increased risk of infection by common diseases, even HIV/AIDS, and lower chances of child survival from common illness sometimes with fatal effects were some of the negative effects of non-exclusive breastfeeding. 26 Oct. 04

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