Bhutan observes World Breastfeeding Week with awareness programmes
Around 100 nurses with the 10 unit involved in breastfeeding promotion were trained for three hours every day for four days last week to improve their knowledge on breastfeeding. It was part of the World Breastfeeding Week observed from 1-5 August.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital organised various activities to observe the week. Among others, mothers who visited the hospital were educated on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of a baby’s life.
Themed ‘Breastfeeding: a key to Sustainable Development”, the week highlighted how to value one’s wellbe- ing from the start of life, and how to respect each other and care for the world.
At an awareness event in Thimphu, the director of the Department of Public Health, Dr Pandup Tshering, said stunting is still a health concern in the country.
According to the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2015, about 21.2 percent of children below five years were stunted, nine percent were underweight and 4.3 percent were wasting.
Dr Pandup Tshering added that the health workers played a vital role in educating mothers on breastfeeding because of the amount of time they spend with mothers.
The mothers visiting the hospital were educated on the importance of nutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding women, disadvantages of mixed feeding, and com- plementary feeding after the first six months.
The midwives at the hospital conducted an awareness programme demonstrating various breastfeeding positions and advised the mothers to visit the unit whenever they face problems related to breastfeeding.
Satomi Otsuka and Tomomi Kera, two Japanese midwives volunteering with Japan International Cooperation Agency, also observed the week at the hospital.
In a message on the breastfeeding week, Health Minister Tandin Wangchuk said that the benefits of breastfeeding lasts a lifetime, adding that breastfeeding helps children to survive and thrive, enabling infants to withstand infections, providing critical nutrients for the early devel- opment of their brains and bodies, and strengthening the bond between mothers and their bodies.
Studies reveal that infants who are breastfed for at least one year went on to stay in school longer, score higher on intelligence tests, and earn more as adults than those who were breastfed for only a month.
Recognising the benefits of breastfeeding, the government of Bhutan places high priority on breastfeeding, encourages programmes that support breastfeeding, and works with communities and families to promote the full benefits of breastfeeding.
Since March this year, the government extended maternity leave to six months in addition to flexi feeding time to enable them to breastfeed their babies exclusively. The UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and WHO Director General Margaret Chan issued a joint statement on the world breastfeeding week urging countries to support the practice for sustainable development.
They said that it is increasingly clear that breastfeeding is not only the cornerstone of a child’s healthy development, but also the foundation of a country’s development.
The two chiefs of the UN agencies said breastfeeding must be “a policy, programming, and public spending priority.”
“In fact, supporting breastfeeding is one of the smartest investments countries can make for the wellbeing of their citizens - and thus, add to their own long-term strength,”
Bhutan has observed the week since 2006.