Real lives

Real Lives


Promoting breastfeeding-a national tradition

Breastfeeding Human Interest Story Turkmenistan 2017
© UNICEF Turkmenistan/2017/Pudlowski
Jahan, 23, breastfeeds her first born child at the postnatal ward in the MCH Hospital in Ashgabat. She would like to have four children in total.

Dr. Gulyaram Jorayeva has been encouraging women to breastfeed for the past 29 years. When she first began this work, cultural practices in regards to breastfeeding were very different in Turkmenistan. Twenty years ago, mother and newborn were separated immediately following delivery to allow the mother time to rest. Newborns were fed a special solution during their first day of life, and only brought to breastfeed after 24 hours.

Over the course of Dr. Gulyaram’s career, the culture of breastfeeding has changed significantly. Today, newborns are put on their mother’s breast immediately following delivery to give infants a healthy start in life and help mothers initiate milk production. Mothers also receive training, before and after delivery, on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months.

The changes in hospital policy began to take shape following independence. In 1993, three Turkmen experts travelled to the United States to learn about exclusive breastfeeding. Upon their return, the first mother and child unit was opened to keep mothers and newborns together in the hours following delivery. By 1998, 64 maternity hospitals had adopted similar breastfeeding promotion practices and as a result, were declared ‘baby-friendly’.

Nowadays, breastfeeding is an accepted practice nationwide. Families, including elderly women, increasingly encourage young mothers to breastfeed. In 2009, a law was passed to protect breastfeeding and in 2016, the law was updated in line with Convention on the Rights of the Child recommendations and the International Code of Marketing. Since 2006, the rate of breastfeeding has increased from 11% to 59%.

“We feel the support of the state,” Dr. Gulyaram said. “With the law on breastfeeding, and by working with UNICEF on the new infant and young child feeding regulations, we will be able to cover children up to three years. This is all so important for the health of our children.”



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