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UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Nana Mouskouri promotes breastfeeding in Romanian Maternity Hospital

© UNICEF Romania/2011/Sandovici
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Nana Mouskouri visits Romania to promote breastfeeding.

By Codruta Hedesiu and Raluca Manta

BUCHAREST, Romania, 6 December 2011 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Nana Mouskouri met with mothers and their newborns at St. Pantelimon Maternity Hospital during a visit to promote the importance of breastfeeding.

It was a second trip to the hospital for Ms. Mouskouri, an internationally acclaimed singer. “I’m glad to be back in Romania. Since my last visit in 2008, many good things have happened. I’m happy to see all the progress and the wonderful work of the people here,” she said. “We need to be aware of the fact that children are the future of this world and of Romania.”

‘I am proud and happy’

Ms. Mouskouri spoke to the women at the hospital about their experiences giving birth and breastfeeding. Florentina, 19, who gave birth to a baby boy just two days earlier, told the singer, “I am proud and happy that he is healthy.”

St. Pantelimon, through the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, encourages women to exclusively breastfeed their children through at least the first six months. Like other mothers in the hospital, Florentina attended a course for soon-to-be mothers and watched a film on the benefits of breastfeeding.

Many mothers who give birth at St. Pantelimon breastfeed their children for up to two years.  But many mothers in Romania are not so lucky.

© UNICEF Romania/2011/Sandovici
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Nana Mouskouri speaks with new mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding, in St. Pantelimon Maternity Hospital in Bucharest.

Obstacles to breastfeeding

According to a recent study, only 16 per cent of Romanian mothers exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months.

There are many obstacles to breastfeeding in the country, including families and physicians who do not support the practice. Some women fear breastfeeding will be painful, and others believe it will adversely affect their bodies.

Hospitals, too, may discourage breastfeeding by separating women from their babies after birth or by advising mothers to use breast milk substitutes. Many do not supply women with information about the benefits of the practice.

But breastfeeding has a host of benefits. Breast milk is the ideal food for infants, providing the nutrients they need for healthy development and conferring antibodies against common childhood diseases. Breastfeeding also fosters bonding, which can help teen mothers and other vulnerable women resist societal pressure to relinquish their babies.

Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative – a joint effort of WHO and UNICEF – ensures women are educated about the importance of breastfeeding, and ensures hospitals maintain international standards and practices. The Initiative also trains maternity staff and allows mothers to ‘room in’, or stay in close proximity, with their babies during first few hours after birth.

UNICEF now supports 30 maternity hospitals in Romania on their way to becoming certified as baby-friendly.

St. Pantelimon has partnered with UNICEF since the initiative was launched in the country. “This hospital has a great responsibility and should get further support,” Ms. Mouskouri said.



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