FIVE Circles of Mother Support

• Family and Social Network: Family and friends compose the mother's immediate and continuous support network, which reduces stress and empowers the mother. Social support increases the mother's confidence in her ability to breastfeed.

• Health and Child Care Facilities and Systems: Family health workers, trained in counseling skills can provide support ranging from mother friendly prenatal care and support from the time of birth, to postpartum. Postnatal care should be there to facilitate bonding of the mother and the child like skin-to-skin contact for a few hours, early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding along with adequate and appropriate complementary feeding at six months to 2 years and beyond.

• Workplace and Employment: Employed women face challenges and need support to succeed both at work and at breastfeeding. The opportunities for mother support are as varied. Working women in different places need different kind of support. Facilitating mother-baby contact or expression and storage of breast milk, support to women in unorganized sector through substituting work by the community providing on-site crèche and baby care facilities are few examples. Babies must stay close to the mothers for success of exclusive breastfeeding.

• Government/Legislation: Support of international documents, protections for optimal breastfeeding, plus active and well-funded national mechanisms /committees /commissions along with legislation that combats aggressive marketing of substitutes and baby foods for infants and young children is required. Governments should enact sufficient paid maternity leave or cash benefits that benefit breastfeeding women.

• Response to Crisis or Emergency: A woman requires special planning and support in an unexpected and /or serious situation, with little control like natural disasters, refugee camps, divorce proceedings, critical illness of mother or baby, or living in an area of high HIV/AIDS prevalence with no support for breastfeeding.

• Women in the Centre Circle: Women are in the centre because the presence or absence of support impacts them directly. Women also have an important role in securing support and in providing it to others.

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