Deputy Director of Reproductive Child Health of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses, wants breastfeeding of babies in public to be regarded as normal in the country.
She condemned the unwarranted public discrimination against breastfeeding women in public and has advised women be allowed to breastfeed freely without any discrimination.
She said: “Mothers breastfeeding their babies in the public is not a crime or taboo, but we are making it is so in this country and this is making breastfeeding mothers restrain their hungry babies from sucking in public.
“Where they do it too, they do it under restricted environments which make the proper breastfeeding bonding between mother and child not being met aptly,” Dr Sagoe-Moses said in Accra at the 2017 National World Breastfeeding Week event held on Wednesday.
She said from six months to two years, breast milk was essential for the growth of every child as it protected them against Diabetes, Stroke, Hypertension and other ailments based on the nutritional components in the breast milk.
To this end, Dr Sagoe-Moses has urged stakeholders especially the media to talk about programmes that promote early antenatal amongst pregnant women.
Besides, health talks at the various antenatal schools should discuss breastfeeding and delivery topics.
“I also call for essential policies and legislation that protects women’s right to breastfeed and work,” she said.
Dr Sagoe-Moses also advised mothers not to prescribe medications for themselves to stop their breast from producing milk when babies are off age and want to stop breastfeeding, but instead be in firm braziers, take paracetamol to control pains and not express the breast, adding that, “most importantly, if there are problems, visit the health centre for the doctors’ assistance,” she advised.
This year’s World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), which is on the theme: “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together” seeks to inform, anchor, engage and galvanise through advocacy and awareness creation on breastfeeding as an essential child survival intervention.
The WBW, which was instituted in 1993 and since then had seen Ghana joining the celebration every year would be formally launched in the country on August 18, at Takoradi.
There are four thematic areas to be observed during the WBW, they include nutrition, food security, and poverty reduction, survival, health and wellbeing, environment and climate change as well as women’s productivity and employment.
In her presentation, Mrs Eunice Sackey, the Programme Manager of Breastfeeding at the GHS, indicated that from 2008, 2010 to 2014, statistics from Ghana Demographic and Health Service on Ghana’s breastfeeding rate ranged from 62.7 per cent, 46.7 per cent and 52 per cent respectively.
She said in years past Ghana was ranked lowest at two per cent in the sub-regions.
She said to achieve better results in the subsequent years, it was time breastfeeding and work was understood as a matter of rights and gender equality in the country instead of living millions of women unprotected in that area.
“International Labour Organisation’s Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (no.183) calls for actions and laws in each country to improve maternity protection.
“Breastfeeding is part of reproductive cycle and women should be able to combine it with paid work without discrimination or disadvantage,” she said.
Mrs Sackey called for the dissemination of key messages on breastfeeding to care givers and the public in order to ensure healthy and stronger infants growth.
She noted that stakeholders would create an online platform that would enable breastfeeding advocates work with others towards the achieving of long term goals as well as defining their works in the contest of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Programme Manager of Breastfeeding at the GHS, advised nursing mothers to start breastfeeding within 30 minutes after birth as early breastfeeding helps the baby learn to breast feed while the breast is still soft and also helps to reduce bleeding.
She called on the fathers and other family members to collectively play their part to ensure exclusive breastfeeding of their children.