The Ghana Health Service (GHS) on Thursday launched this year’s World Breastfeeding Week to intensify advocacy on the need for Ghanaians to embrace the exclusive breastfeeding of their babies for the first six months.
This to ensure their safety, growth and development.
The initiation of breast milk is said to be very critical for the child’s health, as it forms part of the survival strategies and the safest mode of feeding infants from birth when done properly, to reduce malnutrition.
Ms Akua Ofori Asumado, Technical Advisor and Maternity Protectionist, delivering a speech on behalf of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other associate partners, said the celebration on the theme: “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work,” was to empower and support all working women to breastfeed.
She said with the entry of more women of childbearing age into the workforce, continuous and effective breastfeeding had become a severe challenge, and therefore it was essential that support for breastfeeding was reinforced, as it was an integral part of the reproductive process, and one of the main reasons women stopped breastfeeding.
“For many women, the lack of workplace support for breastfeeding makes working incompatible with breastfeeding; how it works and why not breastfeeding at work can mean not breastfeeding at all,” she added.
Ms Asumado stressed that maternity protection was one key strategy that would contribute to the success of achieving all the benefits of breastfeeding, to enable women to combine their reproductive and productive roles successfully.
She noted that strengthening maternity protection and extending it to all women had been a core issue for the ILO, since its foundation in 1919, when the first convention on it was adopted.
She added that if Ghana and all stakeholders ensured the implementation of the Maternity Protection Conventions (103) it had ratified, and pushed towards ratification of Convention (183), that called for a minimum of 14 weeks of maternity leave, only then would breastfeeding arrangements that had been embarked on work.
She therefore urged government, civil societies, co-workers, families and communities, to create and foster a dignified and enabling environment that would allow working mothers to do their work and breastfeed, for a healthy future generation.
Dr Victor Bampoe, the Deputy Minister of Health, thanked the GHS and all stakeholders for the initiative to ensure a healthy mother and child.
Dr Bampoe said studies had shown that the first breast milk known as the colostrum contained important anti-bodies that were able to protect the infant from infections and other diseases.
He said the early initiation of breastfeeding was, therefore, critical to prevent infant morbidity and mortality.
He, however, said “despite all these benefits of breastfeeding, maternity leave, the provision of crèches at workplaces, breastfeeding breaks and facilities for women workers to breastfeed during break time or express breast milk to be used to feed their babies is an issue lactating mothers are faced with.”
He disclosed that a planning committee had drafted a petition to be submitted to Parliament through the ministry, which included the ratification of all the provisions of ILO convention 183 regarding the extension of the leave period to 14 weeks.
He called for family, institutional and community support, for lactating mothers, particularly those in formal employment, so that they could have sound minds and uninterrupted breastfeeding sections with their babies. GNA