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Mozambique’s Breastfeeding Week highlights the role of health professionals

© UNICEF/MOZA-0396/Giacomo Pirozzi
A mother breastfeeds her baby in Changara, Tete province.

Maputo, 23 August 2010 – Every day, around 340 children under the age of five die in Mozambique, mostly of easily preventable and treatable diseases. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to reduce that toll.

As World Breastfeeding Week 2010 begins in Mozambique, UNICEF has joined a worldwide movement encouraging mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life and continue breastfeeding for at least two more years, combined with safe and appropriate complementary feeding.

“Breast milk is the best food a baby can have and it gives a child the best possible start in life,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

In Mozambique, Breastfeeding Week begins on 23 August. This year’s theme, ‘Breastfeeding: Just 10 Steps – the Baby Friendly Way,’ focuses on the authority that health-care workers have in supporting mothers to give their child the best start in life. 

UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization to educate policy-makers, donors, partners, health-care workers and the public about the benefits of breastfeeding, and to improve health workers’ capacity to support mothers with breastfeeding.

The 10 steps to successful breastfeeding have been implemented in more than a quarter of all maternity facilities worldwide.  Experience has shown that the steps make mothers more confident and more likely to initiate breastfeeding early, and to exclusively breastfeed their children in the first six months. In Mozambique, a Training of Trainers in the 10 Steps was undertaken earlier this year, and hospitals in the Southern provinces are in the process of turning the 10 steps into practice.

“It’s a relatively straightforward and very exciting intervention which we strongly feel that all facilities that deliver babies or even interact with babies after they’ve been born, should be undertaking,” said UNICEF Mozambique’s Chief of Health Emanuele Capobianco .

Changing behaviours

While early initiation of breastfeeding contributes to reducing overall neonatal mortality by around 20 per cent, this practice is not yet universal. In Mozambique, the latest data show that 63 per cent of children are breastfed in the first hour after birth. In 2003, this figure was 65 per cent. Of the children under six months of age, 37 per cent are breastfed exclusively, up from 30 per cent in 2003.

Health care workers can and should play a critical role in promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding. The 10 Steps provide a useful framework for maternity facilities. It has been shown that the more of the Ten Steps have been implemented, the more likely it is that mothers achieve the breastfeeding practices they had intended.

“Health workers are crucial for the establishment of good breastfeeding practices”, said Dr. Capobianco. “And therefore ensuring that health workers have the necessary knowledge and skills is very important.”


The 10 Steps

The 10 steps, first promulgated by WHO and UNICEF in 1989, call on every facility providing healthcare for pregnant women, new mothers and newborns to:

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  • Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within 30 minutes of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.
  • Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated.
  • Practice rooming in - allow mothers and infants to remain together - 24 hours a day.
  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  • Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.



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