From 1 – 7th August every year, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated to promote the benefits of breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. Breastfeeding can protect mothers from many illnesses and is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival across the globe. During pregnancy, all families should be given information about the importance of breastfeeding and the benefits for both mother and baby. WHO and UNICEF recommend early initiation of breastfeeding, within the first hour of life: ‘the golden hour’.
Training healthcare providers to support breastfeeding is a key part of CMNH’s competency-based antenatal and postnatal care workshop. In July 2019, the CMNH team delivered the workshop in Mbeya, Tanzania to midwives, nurses and doctors to improve the quality of postnatal care that women and babies receive. The aim of the workshop was to enhance and cement knowledge of these healthcare providers around essential maternal and newborn care. The support of breastfeeding is an essential component of this care. Through discussions, skills stations and practical skills testing, the workshop participants consolidated their knowledge about providing breastfeeding support and education. They practised a range of valuable skills including breastfeeding support, how to support hand expression of milk, skin-to-skin contact and management of feeding problems in the newborn baby.
Skin-to-skin contact is a vital part of this early initiation of feeding and helps babies to adjust to life outside the womb. The UNICEF baby-friendly standards urge maternity units to enable all mothers to have skin-to-skin contact with their baby after birth, at least until after the first feed and for as long as they wish. Teaching a mother how to hand express milk allows a baby to have breast milk even when it is not possible to feed at the breast. This could be for reasons such as a premature baby, a sick baby, a sick mother or the mother’s preference. Hand expressing is a really useful skill to learn, to help mothers to feel more comfortable and avoid complications, such as mastitis, an infection in the breasts.
Kirsty Lowe, Research Associate (Midwifery) at CMNH:
“Through our work across many countries, our team has gained good knowledge about how important breastfeeding is, particularly to support babies that may be sick or small and struggle to feed, and how to do this in low- and middle-income settings. At this workshop, it was brilliant to work together with the healthcare providers to discuss ways that we can support mothers to breastfeed and provide this crucial care to their newborns”