World Breastfeeding Week celebrated across Tamil Nadu
By Sangeetha Rajeesh
Chennai, August 1 – 3, 2007: Breastfeeding week is celebrated around the globe between August 1st and 7th and this year, hospitals in Tamil Nadu strove to promote early initiation of breastfeeding to draw attention to reducing the neonatal mortality rates in the states.
UNICEF joined hands with public health centres and hospitals across the state to encourage all communities to initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth. The week is observed in over 120 countries by UNICEF and its partners, including the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and the World Health Organization.
There were interactive sessions where mothers could clear doubts and inhibitions about breastfeeding. Most hospitals and medical colleges conducted quiz competitions for under-graduates and post-graduate students on breastfeeding and its importance. While medical students were quizzed on the specifics, college students in general were tested on their awareness of the subject.
Exhibitions, outreach programmes, symposiums, programmes for nursing staff and mothers, questionnaires for lactating mothers and competitions were held across communities. Women from rural backgrounds were as much the target as adolescent girls this year. Hospitals divided their programmes to cater to both these categories and this aided in better reach. The sessions for mothers were more interactive, dealing with practical problems such as positioning, while for the prospective mothers, concentration was more on creating awareness.
The Institute of Child Health and Hospital for Children (ICH), Egmore, Chennai, inaugurated World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) with an interactive session with nursing mothers. Pediatricians, speaking on the occasion, spelled out the benefits of breastfeeding to the mothers present and also dealt with queries from the audience. Dr Ayesha, mother of a five-year-old baby boy related her experience of having to work and feed her baby.
Acknowledging the demands on working mothers, she said, “First, a mother has to be mentally prepared to feed her baby, keep work as your last priority. Your baby needs you more.” The doctor suggested that working women could extract their milk if required and that could be stored for as long as one month if kept frozen.
Dispersing myths such as giving a new born baby donkey’s milk or the belief that the very first milk secreted immediately after child birth is ‘bad’ for the infant, doctors at ICH said that there was no infant formula that can substitute the first milk from a mother.
“The very first milk mothers secrete immediately after birth contains a great deal of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and is ideal for the newborn,” explained Dr Swetha to a lactating mother.
The Institute of Social Pediatrics, Government Stanley Medical College and Hospital, Chennai held a series of cultural and variety programmes on breastfeeding and its importance on 3rd August. “These will be followed by interactions with mothers too,” said Dr Karunaran.
The Public Health and Welfare Society, Public Health Centre, West Mambalam has put up charts explaining the benefits of early breastfeeding of infants till August 7, 2007. Dr Sandhya and Dr Jayathi are in constant touch with the mothers in the locality, explaining how early initiation serves as natural immunization for the baby.
The nutritionist at the health centre, Vijaya explained that since the centre caters to the middle and lower- middle income groups, awareness is the key to helping them understand that good attachment is essential for successful breastfeeding and that early initiation would help reduce infant mortality.