|Children in Swaziland hold banners with messages encouraging mothers to exclusively breastfeed their infants.|
By Jabulile Phakathi
During World Breastfeeding Week, 1-7 August 2008, UNICEF and other advocacy groups are promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, which experts believe could save 1.3 million infant lives every year.
MANTAMBE, Swaziland, 6 August 2008 – Swaziland’s strongest citizens stood up for its most vulnerable ones for the launch of World Breastfeeding Week. Wife to the Swazi King, Inkhosikati LaMbikiza, kicked off the seven-day celebration designed to raise awareness on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and to encourage greater support for mothers who choose to breastfeed their children.
Before a crowd of more than 1,000 people, Ms. LaMbikiza praised the Ministry of Health, the Swaziland Infant Nutrition Network (SINAN), and UNICEF for their work in promoting breastfeeding to the nation’s mothers and children.
“Healthy children are the future of our country,” she said. “Like gold, they are precious to us. Breastfeeding ensures they will grow up strong and healthy.”
A supportive environment for mothers
Echoing this year’s Breastfeeding Week theme, Mother Support, Going for the Gold, Inkhosikati also encouraged the Swazi government to enact laws that support working mothers by creating an enabling environment to exclusively breastfeed their children for six months.
In Swaziland, only 30 per cent of mothers breastfeed exclusively, but hopefully that number will change. Ms. Nxumalo, a mother of eight children, is certainly working to change it.
Ms. Nxumalo exclusively breastfed each of her four boys and four girls for six months.
“My mother-in-law would insist I give my children other food, but I resisted,” she said. “I ignored her until she got used to the fact.”
Changing traditions, changing minds
Many women face the same obstacles to breastfeeding as Ms. Nxumalo. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months goes against traditional feeding practices in Swaziland, which include mixed feeding with soft porridge. Straying from tradition, even if it is in the best interest of the child, often results in a lack of support from family and community.
|Wife of the Swazi King, Inkhosikati LaMbikiza called on the Swazi government to enact laws to support mothers to breastfeed exclusively.|
“I have no regrets about my decision,” said Ms. Nxumalo. “My children are growing up well and doing excellently at school. We have a mother love bond that was created during breastfeeding and exists between us and that makes me very happy.”
“Breast milk is a gift of life to infants, the best nutrition option and a good preventive medicine against common diseases,” said Dr. Jama Gulaid, UNICEF Representative in Swaziland. “Support for the mother, especially a young mother, has tremendous impact. It motivates mothers to breastfeed longer and also gives them confidence that they are doing something very important that the child, and all of society, values.”
A coordinated effort
The Swazi Government is also lending support to efforts by developing policies to promote breastfeeding across the country. Speaking at the launch, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Njabulo Mabuza, announced the draft National Food and Nutrition Policy, which aims to strengthen and coordinate nutrition activities in the country.
Swaziland recently revitalized the ‘Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative’, which promotes breastfeeding and educates new mothers in hospitals. Three of the nation’s six hospitals have been accredited with the Baby-Friendly Hospital status.
UNICEF will continue to support exclusive breastfeeding initiatives in Swaziland with the Ministry of Health and other partners. At the launch, Dr. Gulaid pledged 1.2 million dollars worth of supplies and equipment to these efforts.
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