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September 15 to 19: World Breastfeeding Week:

More mums breastfeed in Lanka

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has achieved a 50 per cent increase in the number of mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies during the first six months of life, UNICEF said yesterday as Sri Lanka launched World Breastfeeding Week.

A range of Government health initiatives, led by the Health Ministry and supported by UNICEF, have seen the country's rate of 'exclusive breastfeeding' increase from 50 per cent to 75 per cent from 2000 to 2007. The result is fewer infant deaths, and healthier babies.

"In a developing country, a child who is breastfed is almost three times more likely to survive infancy than a child who is not breastfed" said UNICEF's Nutrition project officer, Dr. Renuka Jayatissa. "We will continue to support the Government in revitalising Baby Friendly Hospitals (BFHs) and roll out trainings so as to ensure further progress".

Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in Sri Lanka September 15-19, UNICEF, along with the World Alliance

for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), is recommending the provision of increased professional and informal support for breastfeeding mothers.

For Sri Lanka this means maintaining and expanding current activities. This will occur through a continuation of trainings, advocacy, capacity building, and support to the country's Baby Friendly Hospitals.

To this end, UNICEF has just completed a training on infant and young child feeding for health workers, and has another planned for October. Additional trainings will then spread into the district.

"These trainings are vital," said the community physician from the Family Health Bureau, Dr. Dhammika Rowell. "Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life saves lives.

It can reduce the number of deaths caused by acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea, and builds a bond between the mother and child."

UNICEF said recent scientific studies have found that education and support for mothers significantly extends the number of months that mothers breastfeed, and is especially helpful in promoting exclusive breastfeeding.

Although there has been progress in the developing world over the past 15 years, only 38 per cent of infants under six months of age are breastfed. This compares poorly with Sri Lanka's 75 per cent.

The aim of World Breastfeeding Week is to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life which yields tremendous health benefits, providing critical nutrients, protection from deadly diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and fostering growth and development.

 

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