‘Breastfeeding, a natural and healthy process with benefits’ – Minister Lawrence
The Ministry of Public Health’s Food Policy Division, along with several mothers and supporters, on Sunday ventured on a breastfeeding walk in Central Georgetown to launch and celebrate 16 years of Breastfeeding Week (2017) in Guyana.
Under the theme “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together”, this year’s Breastfeeding Week activities aim to reduce poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity by 2030.
In her feature address, Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, emphasised the importance and benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child, noting that breastfeeding should be an ongoing activity, and not only be observed during Breastfeeding Week.
Stressing the importance of togetherness, Minister Lawrence said while the action is also part of the Administration’s Sustainable Development Goals, the country as a whole has a target to meet, and it does not only involve the work of the Government.
“As a nation, by 2030, we have to ensure that we end the preventable deaths of newborns and children under age five. We should aim to reduce the neonatal mortality to at least 12 of one hundred live births…,” she said.
Directly addressing the mothers, and particularly those breastfeeding, the Minister described breastfeeding as a natural and healthy process which provides a wide range of benefits. “Sometimes, people don’t see the benefit because it does not have a cost to it”.
Despite the myths and challenges of breastfeeding, she is admonishing all health centres throughout Guyana to inform mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding in the most relatable terms.
“There are medical benefits to the mother — the releasing of hormones; and it helps the reproductive organs to return to the pre-pregnancy size. It also helps with cancer, both ovarian and breast cancer”, said Lawrence.
In relation to breastfeeding in public, Lawrence said her Ministry is pushing the Social Protection Ministry “to champion breastfeeding spaces throughout work environments for mothers”.
Also making remarks, Director of Food Policy Division at the Ministry of Public Health, Dinte Conway, said the breastfeeding process is one that should be observed not only by mothers, but also as a family, including the support of fathers and other relatives.
Conway also stated that the process serves as food security for infants, and is free food when compared to formulas. “Breastfeeding is a key component of sustainable development, for instance, ending poverty. Breastfeeding is a low-cost way of feeding babies and children”, said Conway.
The Director commended the Public Health Ministry for achieving the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative status in 2016 despite many challenges faced, and for always observing Breastfeeding Week in Guyana.
Some of the mothers along with their babies, who participated in the Walk, shared their views on breastfeeding.
Keziah Skeete: “I believe breastfeeding is essential in every single meaning of the word. Despite it taking a lot of energy from the mother sometimes, you are left with a healthy baby; and it has benefits for you as a mother.”
Shubrena Bell: “This is my second child, and it is a privilege to be a mother again. Breastfeeding I consider as a very important thing, not only for a baby, but me as well.”
Niomi Sampson: “This is my first child, and it feels good to be a mother. Breastfeeding is the most efficient formula for our babies, it is free of cost; so I encourage all mothers out there to breastfeed their children.”
According to the Department of Public Information (DPI), Guyana is also celebrating 25 years of observing Breastfeeding Week on the international level.