A Global Effort Involving Private and Public Sectors
Story Updated August 1, 2017
Last year a series on breastfeeding in the Lancet affirmed the multiple benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for children and for mothers.
- Immediate breastfeeding within an hour after birth would significantly reduce neonatal mortality.
- Optimal breastfeeding could prevent over 800,000 deaths each year in children under 5 years of age.
- Breastfeeding improves cognitive performance of children.
- Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
The analysis also reported that breastfeeding would benefit the economic development of households and nations. Reduced health care costs and improved cognitive ability could help accelerate progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustaining Breastfeeding Together is the theme of World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7, 2017.
Tragically, less than half of the world’s newborns benefit from early breastfeeding and even fewer are exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Women need support for breastfeeding both at home and at work.
Working Moms Across the Globe Need Breastfeeding Support
To support women at the workplace, Project HOPE’s HealthWorks project, launched in 2012 with funding from Merck for Mothers, worked with factory owners and managers in five factories in Subang District near Jakarta to improve support for breastfeeding. The five factories employ over 11,000 women.
Indonesia has laws in place that protect women’s right to breastfeed, including mandatory provision of lactation rooms and breaks for working women. However, compliance with these laws in factories is low, less than 20 percent according to a 2014 survey in Jakarta conducted by the International Labor Organization. The report cited lack of awareness of the policy by factory owners.
A year after the project started, Project HOPE conducted a survey in three factories. The percentage of women breastfeeding went up by 15 percent in two factories that established or improved lactation rooms equipped with a refrigerator and breast pumps, and that created a new factory policy to encourage women to take lactation breaks. But more support is needed for exclusive breastfeeding at home. While breastmilk provides all the nutrition a baby needs for the first six months of life, many women continue to provide their babies with bottles of infant formula or other supplemental nutrition, sometimes provided by family members who care for the baby while the mother is working. This not only increases the infant’s risk of infection, it reduces the infant’s desire to breastfeed, which reduces the production of breastmilk. Additional counseling and education is needed for women and families about overcoming common misconceptions and breastfeeding problems.
A Little Support Goes a Long Way
In addition to the private sector, Project HOPE is also working with the public health services in villages to support breastfeeding through the Saving Lives at Birth project, funded by Johnson and Johnson in Serang District since 2012. Project HOPE is building the capacity of Health Centers to support exclusive breastfeeding as part of skills improvements during Basic Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care training. The project to-date has reached 41,000 mothers and infants and exclusive breastfeeding from birth to six months of age has risen from 28 percent to 58 percent during the program. In our continuing efforts to support optimal breastfeeding, we are training the government’s community health workers to bring breastfeeding counseling to households, ensuring families have the right information at the right time.
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