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Ways to Support Breastfeeding Actions

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Sola Fagbemi

Over the course of this week, you have probably come across posts online and news reports highlighting the importance of breastfeeding actions. This is because the 1st of August 1 to the 7th of August is the annual World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) that aims to promote the benefits of breastfeeding.

This year’s theme, Step up for Breastfeeding – Educate and Support”, focuses on strengthening the capacity of actors to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding actions across different levels of society to build the warm chain of support for breastfeeding actions.

Breastfeeding is key to sustainable development strategies post-pandemic, as it improves nutrition, ensures food security, and reduces inequalities between and within countries. This year, the Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRiN) project will support key actors (faith actors, fathers, nutritionists, young people, and more) to identify their roles in the warm chain of support and inform them on what role they can play to support accelerating nutrition results in Nigeria beginning with breastfeeding practices or actions as they are linked to all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

There are numerous ways to participate in this campaign hence we have dedicated our platforms to amplify the voices of Faith actors, Mothers, Fathers, and Government representatives regarding breastfeeding actions. In addition, this blog post highlights ways members of the Warm Chain of Support, can promote breastfeeding actions. 

The Warm Chain of Support for WBW 2022:

Religious leaders and faith communities

Religious leaders and faith communities are the largest civil institutions in the world and are often the most respected figures within communities. Here are 7 ways religious leaders can raise awareness and influence attitudes, behaviours, and practices:

  1. Become aware of optimal breastfeeding practices and motivate their congregations to promote the mothers’ right to breastfeed.
  2. Motivate and educate followers to adopt other healthy behaviours that are compatible with religious teachings.
  3. Facilitate communication within families to create a more supportive environment for the woman who is breastfeeding.
  4. Remind families of the husband’s responsibility to support the wife before and after childbirth.
  5. Influence communities and families to support women to only breastfeed for the first six months and to continue breastfeeding for the child’s first two years.
  6. Create space in their facilities for women to breastfeed in private during services and events if that is the norm or mothers’ preference.
  7. Share messages about the benefits of breastfeeding and risks of sub-optimal feeding practices to parents.

Fathers

Fathers are important member of the breastfeeding team. When fathers support breastfeeding and are involved in caring for the baby, breastfeeding improves, the parental relationship is better, and their infants develop more quickly. As a father, you can support breastfeeding actions in some ways:

  1. Work together with the mother as equal partners in a parenting team and set breastfeeding goals together as a family. Inform family members about your breastfeeding goals and ask for support as needed.
  2. Communicate with the mother regularly and pay attention to when and how she wants you to be involved in breastfeeding. Trust her – sometimes all that is needed is moral support and encouragement.
  3. Create an environment that is conducive for breastfeeding at home. Share domestic tasks in and around the home and, if you have older children, take the opportunity to spend extra time caring for them. This will give the mother time to focus on breastfeeding.

Community Members

Community Members play important roles in promoting and advocating for breastfeeding in the society. They can share personal experiences and strategies and have a positive influence on infant feeding choices. As a member of your community, you can support breastfeeding actions in many ways:

  1. Actively share your experiences of breastfeeding and the latest evidence-based information with parents and friends through social media or breastfeeding support groups.
  2. Encourage parents-to-be to choose healthcare facilities that promote and support breastfeeding and connect parents with breastfeeding support groups.
  3. Advocate to government and local businesses to establish breastfeeding-friendly spaces and normalise breastfeeding in public.

Mother Support Groups

Mother Support Groups have important roles in the continuation of breastfeeding support for families in the community. They can provide women and their families with timely and accurate information as well as practical and emotional support to promote optimal breastfeeding actions. As a member of a mother support group, you can support breastfeeding in the following ways: By providing a comfortable environment antenatally and postnatally for the exchange of information and experiences related to breastfeeding, helping mothers/parents overcome challenges and reach their breastfeeding goals, and advocating for all parents to have access to skilled breastfeeding counselling and support from health facilities and communities.

Young People 

Young People have the power to change social norms by utilising innovative approaches and using diverse channels. They can thus play an active role in advocating for an enabling breastfeeding environment. Here are 4 ways young people can support breastfeeding actions:

  1. Stay educated! Read about the benefits of breastfeeding and how it is one of the best investments in saving lives and improving the health, social and economic development of individuals and nations.
  2. Get creative! Use different methods to share information about breastfeeding and how we can protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. Take advantage of social media resources and platforms to promote breastfeeding.
  3. Be involved! If you see a mother breastfeeding in public, be respectful and encouraging. Support your breastfeeding friends and family members any way you can.
  4. Get your voice heard! Share information from verified sources and experts. At the same time, call out false information about breastfeeding by providing evidence-based facts.

Midwives/Nurses/Traditional Birth Assistants

Midwives/Nurses/TBAs have powerful influence on a woman’s decision to breastfeed and on the success of her breastfeeding experience. Quality midwifery care improves maternal and infant survival, health, and well-being throughout the antenatal, birth and postnatal periods. Midwives can support breastfeeding actions in many ways:

  1. Discuss breastfeeding with youth in reproductive health education.
  2. Inform mothers and families antenatally about the benefits and management of exclusive and continued breastfeeding, and about what happens at the time of birth and soon after.
  3. Enable mother to achieve her ideal birthing experience by encouraging a partner and/or birth companion to support her birth, adopting the preferred position during labour and delivery and avoiding unnecessary separation and medical procedure
  4. Support the “golden hour” by ensuring skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery and allowing uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact for the first hour or until the baby breastfeeds.

Certified Lactation Consultants

Certified Lactation Consultants play a multi-disciplinary role that straddles generalised support for breastfeeding and allied health care. This improves maternal and infant survival, health, and well-being throughout the antenatal, birth and postnatal periods. As a Certified Lactation Consultant, you can support breastfeeding actions by empowering the mother to achieve her breastfeeding goals while assisting with any difficulties and providing information and training on the science of lactation and clinical management of breastfeeding.

Nutritionists and Dieticians

Nutritionists and Dieticians play key roles in shaping food choices, improving nutritional status, and providing preventative and therapeutic intervention in both general and emergency settings. As a nutritionist/dietitian, you can include breastfeeding when addressing nutritional status, especially in humanitarian crises. In addition, you may address barriers to optimal breastfeeding through behaviour change and communications.

Paediatricians

Paediatricians need to be aware of the strong influence they have on parents over infant health issues. Any advice they give on breastfeeding would have a great impact on the choices parents make about breastfeeding. To promote the practice of breastfeeding actions, paediatricians should always ask about breastfeeding during a consultation and inform mothers and other family members about the importance of breastfeeding for short and long-term health.

Trade Unions/Market Associations

Trade Unions/Market Associations are key actors in advocating, negotiating, and implementing social protection and breastfeeding rights for all parents at the workplace. Trade unions have the power to organise, inform, mobilise workers, and negotiate for collective bargaining agreements that support breastfeeding. Trade Unions can support breastfeeding actions in many ways:

  1. Ensure that pregnant and nursing workers’ health, maternity, paternity, and parental rights are given priority in the union and workplace.
  2. Develop and review parental social protection policies at work and advocate to governments for implementation and strengthening of policies.

Environmentalists

Environmentalists can play a role in the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding by advocating for breastfeeding as a renewable and sustainable first food. Breastfeeding contributes positively towards planetary health which includes the health of people and the planet. As an environmentalist, you can advocate to align policies on breastfeeding with environment/climate initiatives and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Academia

Academia across a range of disciplines, plays a key role in promoting, supporting, and advocating breastfeeding through education, research, and dissemination of research findings.  As a member of academia, you can ensure that appropriate and adequate information on breastfeeding is included in curricula taught in your institution, and by prioritising research in breastfeeding.

Thank you for reading our blog post! Please share widely.

If you missed the the goodwill message from Dr. Ojuolape Solanke, National Project Manager (ANRiN) FMOH, watch here –  

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