Promotion of breastfeeding in Sarajevo with a message: There is no adequate substitute for breast milk
On the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 1 - 7), in Bosnia and Herzegovina UNICEF and the International Baby-Food Action Network – IBFAN distributed flyers and organized a street promotion on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for child growth and development.
While UNICEF volunteers distributed leaflets with the most important information on the breastfeeding benefits for children, a team of doctors was on hand to consult with those who wanted more information.
UNICEF and IBFAN’s promotional stand was set up on the main walking street in the centre of town - Ferhadija as a result of support received from the city government.
Tea Reljić and Alen Tabaković were among the volunteers. Alen stated that the fact that a man was distributing leaflets on breastfeeding was pretty strange for many passers - men generally laughed when he approached them.
- “Our people simply consider this odd. It is not my first time to volunteer and I’m always pleased to help. I’m studying economic science and besides distributing flyers we are helping to promote and exchange ideas” – says Alen.
Tea explained that it was her first time to volunteer for UNICEF:
“I’m studying in Texas and I’m currently on vacation. When I heard that UNICEF is seeking volunteers for this action, I immediately applied. I like to volunteer. Moreover, in Texas volunteering makes up part our grade in school, so it’s an opportunity to combine both the practical and the pleasurable” – says Tea. She added that for this action she learned a lot about breastfeeding. If someone requested more information, she would refer them to the IBFAN team of doctors.
- I am satisfied with with the response. We have volunteers that distributed brochures and I noticed lot of future mothers that passed by and were interested in the topic. However, it seems that there are many who still don’t realize the importance of breastfeeding for their babies and don’t want to understand because they are refusing to take leaflets – states Dr. Mira Ademović, pediatrician.
Dr. Ademovic explains that exclusive breastfeeding consists of breastfeeding the baby until its six months of age without any supplements and continuing the breastfeeding while adding adequate nourishment until the child is two years old. Exclusive breastfeeding is important not only for healthy child development and strengthened immunization, it also helps to form a strong emotional bond between mother and child.
For a country such as BiH, breastfeeding also has an economic impact considering that it is free of charge, always fresh and meets the child’s needs.
Dr. Ademović added that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in BiH, according to the last results, is only 17%, which demonstrates that BiH is still far from international standards.
- “However, when it comes to the length of the breastfeeding, then I have to say that BiH is in front of European standards: – says Dr. Ademović, adding that a focus should be put on awareness raising of future mothers.
- I believe that this type of action is needed. However, the whole health system should get involved, as well as the population. It is important to give to future mothers’ correct information about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for their children and provide support so that they don’t give up on exclusive breastfeeding. Mothers milk is the best aliment for the child and nothing can adequately replace it – says Dr. Ademović
Hospitals that want to gain accreditation as being “baby friendly” must have systems in place to promote and encourage exclusive breastfeeding. In “baby friendly hospitals”, mothers have an opportunity to get to know the most basic principles and benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. Hospital staff is trained and able to instruct them on the proper techniques for successful breastfeeding.
Dženana Zaimović is pregnant with her second child and approached the team at the stand. She confirmed the necessity of having information on proper breastfeeding.
- I was lucky that my mother-in-law is a midwife and she gave me the necessary information. If she wasn’t there, I doubt that I would have received the advise that I required. A lot of women don’t have that chance and get little or no information from the responsible institutions. That’s why I think that these actions are very much needed and that future mothers should be informed – says Dženan.
Selena Bajraktarević, manager of the health and early child development projects in UNICEF, said that the aim of this action as well other similar actions, is to raise the rate of exclusive breastfeeding closer to a European standard of between 30 - 40% .
- We opened this year’s World Breastfeeding Week with this stand and will continue to focus on the media advocacy in the short-term. These actions complement UNICEF’s work over the past number of years to improve the care provided to mothers and newborns in hospitals. Our long-term aim is to strengthen the maternal health system to improve the care provided to mothers and their newborn babies – explains Selena Bajraktarević.
Written by: Almir Panjeta