Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in Kyrgyzstan
According to the latest research (MICS, UNICEF 2007), little more than 40 per cent of babies zero to three months old are exclusively breastfed in Kyrgyzstan, and by the age of five months this decreases to 35 per cent. What is more, in three of the seven regions of Kyrgyzstan, including the city of Bishkek, just between 14 and 30 per cent of babies aged zero to three months are exclusively breastfed.
Moreover, cluster inspection of children at household level in Talas Region (MICS, UNICEF 2007) has shown that within the first hours of birth, just half of all newborns are breastfed. One in every ten mothers gives the child various liquids and food, including industrial produced dairy mixes even before they leave the maternity home.
Analysis has shown that generally women living in cities and suburbs are most likely to switch to artificial formulas. This is caused by several factors, including availability and aggressive advertising of breast milk substitutes, a misconception of formula food is modern and more beneficial to the child; and an absence of strong family communications that supports new mothers to breastfeed.
“There is no doubt that breast milk is vital in the first six months of life,” noted Dinara Sagynbaeva, Head of the Treatment and Prophylactic Department of the Ministry of Health. “But at the same time misconceptions about early age breastfeeding continue to circulate in society. Therefore, we need to mobilize in order to educate the health workers and also mothers themselves, persuading them that children in the first six months of life should only receive breast milk,” she emphasized.
To mark the World Breastfeeding Week, a bright festival was held in Talas. The highlight of the festival is a competition organized for young pregnant women who will give birth to their first child this year. The competition was held when the 2008 Olympic Games kicked off in Beijing, so it was dubbed “Breast milk – golden victories”.
The competition was accompanied with performances by musicians and singers. The jury included Kyrgyz Parliamentary Deputies, the Deputy Governor of Talas Region, UNICEF Representative and Kyrgyz journalists. All the participants of this unusual competition received prizes and gifts from the Talas Regional Administration, the Ministry of Health and UNICEF.
In addition, gold medals were also awarded to those government officials and health workers who have actively promoted exclusive breastfeeding in their communities.
“We are glad, that a close partnership has been established between UNICEF, the Ministry of Health, and parliamentary deputies to improve the health of children,” said UNICEF Representative Timothy Schaffter, summing up Kyrgyzstan’s Breastfeeding Week. “With both hands we vote for breast milk, taking into account all the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding, both to children and to mothers.”
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