UNICEF and the Ministry of Health Launch Efforts to Increase Breast Feeding Rates
Skopje, 18 June 2009: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Health kicked off efforts to address decreasing exclusive breastfeeding rates today at a seminar designed to strengthen the capacity of maternities, whether free standing or in a hospital, to become centers of breastfeeding support. Baby-friendly hospitals are maternity facilities that provide a supportive environment for breastfeeding. As part of the global Baby- Friendly Hospital Initiative, a maternity facility can be designated 'baby-friendly' if it does not accept free or low-cost breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding
“In the country 28 out of 30 maternity hospitals (90 per cent) were accredited baby-friendly as part of an earlier Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative,” said Dr. Elizabeta Zisoska, President of the National Breastfeeding Committee. “This resulted in an increase in the exclusive breastfeeding rate from 8% in 1994 to 64% in 2001, placing the country among the first 5 countries in the world with the highest number of Baby Friendly Hospitals and the highest rate of exclusive breastfeeding.”
Unfortunately the rate of exclusive breast feeding in the country has dropped significantly from about 65% in 2001 to about 16 per cent of babies among under six months infants.
“Breastfeeding costs less than artificial feeding and can save families up to 700 USD in the first three months of a child’s birth. However, the cost benefits of exclusive breastfeeding go beyond economic gains. Children who have been breastfed are less likely to die of diarrhea and acute respiratory infections, have better educational achievements, less childhood illness and stronger emotional bonds in the family,” continued Ms. Foyouzat.
The drastic decline in exclusive breastfeeding rates necessitates strengthening monitoring systems to ensure that certified baby-friendly hospitals are adhering to standards. As part of the efforts to increase breastfeeding rates, certified baby-friendly hospitals will be reassessed and an initial assessment of the two uncertified maternity hospitals will be completed by the end of 2009.
Additionally, the renewed efforts will also involve strengthening community support for breastfeeding. Municipalities will establish Committees for Protection of the Rights of Health Services’ Users to improve the knowledge of citizens and help them make informed decisions including the decision to exclusively breastfeed a child.
Additional notes to the editor:
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), launched in 1991, is an effort by UNICEF and the World Health Organization to ensure that all the maternities, whether free standing or in a hospital, become centers of breastfeeding support. A maternity facility can be designated 'baby-friendly' when it does not accept free or low-cost breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.
TEN STEPS TO SUPPORT SUCCESSFUL BREASTFEEDING