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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. 
“Hospitals and maternity units set a powerful example for mothers. They provide a single entry point to promote exclusive breastfeeding is through Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative,” said Ms. Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF Deputy Representative.  “The drop in exclusive breast-feeding rates is alarming, but with sustained efforts, is reversible.”

 “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.

For additional information please contact:
Suzie Pappas Capovska, Communications Officer, UNICEF Skopje (02) 3231-150,

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.

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





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