Ministry pushes for breastfeeding friendly Samoa
For the first week of August, Samoa will join the rest of the world in celebrating World Breastfeeding Week under the theme: 'Supporting breastfeeding for a healthier Samoa'.
Held from August 1-7, the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) is conducting community awareness programmes that include an online photo competition and a talkback radio show.
The public has also been encouraged to wear the colour yellow to show support for the cause.
According to the Ministry’s Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly policy, seven out of 10 Samoan infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
"Despite the fact that 81 per cent of infants are breastfed within the first hour of birth, only 70 per cent are exclusively breastfed for six months in Samoa," the policy brief notes.
"The United Nations’ Children’s Fund (U.N.I.C.E.F.) and [the] World Health Organisation recommend six months of exclusive breastfeeding, as it provides adequate nutrition for optimal growth and development."
According to the World Health Organisation, among Pacific Islands states Samoa ranks third in breastfeeding prevalence with 70 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfeeding for up to six months. The Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are in first and second place with percentages of 76 per cent and 72 per cent respectively.
Over the years, the Health Ministry is a natural act but also a learned behaviour.
"Mothers and other caregivers require active support for establishing and sustaining appropriate breastfeeding [routines]," the Ministry’s public material says.
The Ministry says it is seeking to identify evidence-based ways to promote an increase in breastfeeding rates.
On Friday, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children's Fund called on Governments to protect and promote access to skilled breastfeeding counselling.
Governments are called to invest to make skilled breastfeeding counselling available to every woman, which will require increased financial support for breastfeeding programmes and policies.
The organisations are calling for healthcare workers to be trained, including midwives and nurses, to deliver such counselling.
Most importantly, Governments have been advised to protect health care workers from the influence of the baby formula industry.
" Mothers need support – both to get started and to sustain breastfeeding," the U.N.I.C.E.F. Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, and W.H.O. Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said in a joint message.