Breastfeeding is one of the most essential human activities. Whether it’s a mother caring for a premature child in Sierra Leone or in the Dominican Republic, the benefits of breastfeeding are clear. We know that breastfeeding builds babies’ immunity, encourages growth and development of children and improves women’s health. According to a recent article in The Lancet, improving breastfeeding rates could prevent approximately 823,000 child deaths every year.
At Project HOPE, providing relevant and up-to-date information on breastfeeding and supporting women to exclusively breastfeed their babies crosscuts through our maternal and neonatal programs. For instance, in Indonesia, we work with mothers and health care workers to improve pre and post-natal care, including breastfeeding promotion and education. In Hungary, we promote initiation of exclusive breastfeeding in the first hour of birth through immediate skin to skin contact. In Africa, Project HOPE’s programs attempt to dispel myths and harmful believes around breastfeeding including discarding of first milk (colostrum), and putting herbs and other substances on breasts.
In Sierra Leone, we extensively promote breastfeeding through activities in our Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) units and community based programs. Project HOPE helped establish the first KMC units in Sierra Leone for the care for preterm and low birth weight infants at two hospitals in the country. Through staff training and continued mentorship through expert volunteers and consultants, and currently through the engagement of a technical coordinator and mentor midwife previously trained by Project HOPE, breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with newborns allows small babies to thrive. The intimate and constant contact allows babies to sleep better, conserve more energy, keep their body temperatures regulated and help them grow. The baby can also smell the milk and can suck frequently while being kept warm.
During World Breastfeeding Week, I’m thrilled to renew Project HOPE’s commitment to encourage breastfeeding around the world.
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