Ahead of the commemoration of World Breastfeeding Week this year, an official at Liberia’s Ministry of Health, the Coordinator of Maternal Infant and Young Child Feeding, Regina Moore, has disclosed that in Liberia, over 40 percent of newborn babies are not being initiated to breastfeeding within the first one hour of birth and about 50 percent of infants are not being exclusively breastfed in the country.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year in August to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies globally.
It commemorates the Innocent Declaration signed in August 1990 by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is considered the best way to provide infants with needed nutrients.
The World Health Organization has recommended exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth until a baby is six months old.
Nutritious complementary foods should then be added while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or beyond.
This year in Liberia, the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF, World Health Organization, United Nations and WaterAid Liberia, under the Irish Aid Nutrition Program, is encouraging people to “Support mums to breastfeed anytime, anywhere,” as all of society has a role to play in making communities more breastfeeding-friendly.
In a recent live radio talk show, the Coordinator of Maternal Infant and Young Child Feeding at the Ministry of Health, Madam Moore further disclosed that only 61 percent of new born babies are introduced to breast milk within the first one hour of birth and only 55 percent of infant are exclusively breastfed in Liberia.
The Coordinator revealed that most mothers are not doing appropriate breastfeeding according to statistics of the Liberian demographic health survey.
Also making remarks on the radio talk show, the WASH Manager of SHALOM, Lusu Gibson, asserted that breastfeeding boosts brain development and protects babies against life-threatening illnesses.
Mrs. Gibson said it provides all the nutrients that babies need to grow healthy, strong and clever.
The World Health Organizations and UNICEF have recommended that new born babies be introduced to breastfeeding within the first one hour after delivery, continued exclusively without any other food or drink, not even water for the first 6 months and then continued, with safe and adequate complementary foods, up to two years or beyond.
UNICEF and WHO are working with the Liberian Ministry of Health in implementing the baby-friendly hospital initiative (BFHI), where early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding are promoted and institutionalized for all institutional deliveries.
In addition, UNICEF is also supporting the Ministry of Health on wide-scale awareness to promote early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding across Liberia, especially through mass media campaigns.