Let’s support breastfeeding mothers – For the best start in life
Podgorica, 27 July 2022 – The 30th World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated during the first week of August, focuses this year on community- and family-based support for breastfeeding. Although awareness of the importance of breastfeeding is growing in Montenegro, leading to increased rates of breastfeeding in practice, a lot more needs to be done to support mothers inside and outside of maternity wards. According to 2021 data, only one in four Montenegrin mothers of children aged 0 to 6 breastfed their babies within an hour of birth. Three out of five mothers confirmed that their baby received supplementary feeds in maternity wards. Almost all mothers (94%) agree that mothers should receive better support from health workers to breastfeed successfully.
Therefore, late last year UNICEF, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, re-launched the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). The time since the re-launch has been used to train national trainers in contemporary BFHI standards, and the National Breastfeeding Committee was set up. This year and next year, national training for healthcare workers will be delivered.
“Without doubt, breastfeeding is one of the best ways to secure the best start in life for each child. The first few hours and days in the life of a newborn are key for establishing breastfeeding. But, mothers often face obstacles upon leaving maternity wards. Thus, it is critical that mothers are supported both in hospitals and in the community, primarily through local healthcare centres and patronage nurses,” Sabina Žunić, Acting Head of the UNICEF Montenegro Office, noted on the occasion.
Rapid assessment of maternity wards against the revised BFHI standards was done with the support of the European Union and, currently, national guidelines for BFHI and counselling in local healthcare centres are being developed.
“Under the BFHI initiative, the Ministry of Health set up a commission which visited all maternity wards in Montenegro and prepared the final report that was presented to all general hospitals and the Clinical Centre of Montenegro. According to the report, the Commission noted positive advances and increased breastfeeding rates within one hour of birth. All maternity wards have seen an advancement,” Dr Slađana Ćorić, Director General of the Health Protection Directorate of the Ministry of Health, stated.
An important segment of support available in Montenegro is provided by counsellors from the Parents’ Association, operating the helpline for breastfeeding mothers and assisting with any problems they might encounter.
“We are pleased to see that breastfeeding is finally receiving the space and the attention it deserves from healthcare institutions and services and that there is a willingness to undergo training and improve practices. It has been largely missing for the past few decades and we are encouraged to see the relevant ministry focusing on this major area, with the support of UNICEF. It is important for us to be a part of the efforts concerning education, but also breastfeeding promotion and assisting breastfeeding mothers, which is vital for sustaining breastfeeding over a longer period,” Kristina Mihailović, Executive Director of the Parents Association, noted.
Numerous pieces of evidence-based information and advice on breastfeeding are available also within the popular Bebbo app, developed by UNICEF in cooperation with the Public Health Institute, and financially supported by the European Union. The app is free and available for both iOS and Android platforms.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.