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World Breastfeeding Week: Workplaces urged to provide support to breastfeeding working mothers

Advisor to the Health Minister,
Dr Leslie Ramsammy

This year’s World Breastfeeding Week is themed “Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a difference for working parents,” and the Health Ministry is encouraging workplaces to implement measures that allow working mothers to safely provide breast milk to their babies.
The Health Ministry’s Food Policy Division on Thursday held a Breastfeeding Education and Awareness Symposium that sought to inform stakeholders of the nutritional value of breast milk, and the importance of breastfeeding exclusively during the baby’s first six months.
Director of the Food Policy Division, Gillian Trim, explained that exclusive breastfeeding during this period guarantees the baby’s healthy development, and is also a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to formula.
“Exclusively breastfeeding means giving the baby breast milk alone. No other foods are given, not ever water. All of the nutrients are provided in the breast milk,” Trim said.

Director of the Food Policy Division, Gillian Trim

“Breast milk has a lot of antibodies that help to protect your baby before they get all their vaccinations. Breast milk provides their first line of defence,” Trim added.
However, noting the challenges some new mothers may face in doing so, Trim shared some measures workplaces can put in place to cater for them.
“We can have flexible working schedules where the mother is given time to express her milk, whether she’s expressing by hand or doing it with the aid of a pump. And [she can be given] access to a private area for expression,” Trim said.
“[She should also be given] access to a nearby clean and safe water source and a sink for washing her hands and rinsing out any storage containers. [She should have] access to hygienic storage options for the mother to store her breast milk, like a fridge,” Trim said.
Meanwhile, Advisor to the Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, reiterated the lasting positive impact of breastfeeding. Dr Ramsammy urged a national movement to push for universal exclusive breastfeeding, noting that if practised globally, it will prevent the premature death of almost 1 million persons.
“Mothers who were breastfed when they were babies could have safer pregnancies and deliver healthier babies, because the benefits of the first sixth months of exclusive breastfeeding…last forever,” Dr. Ramsammy said.
The Health Advisor also added the economic benefits of breastfeeding, given that formula products require a higher cost attached to their production and marketing.
“In a world where we need to save on the resources that we spend on health, universal breastfeeding could save the world US$302 billion per year,” he said.
As such, Dr Ramsammy urged a national movement to push the need for universal exclusive breastfeeding.
“We should ensure that the curriculum throughout primary and secondary school includes the benefits of breastfeeding, so that children already know,” Dr. Ramsammy said.
“We need this movement, because it’s not just the mothers and it is not just our health workers; this is all of us who must work to achieve universal exclusive breastfeeding for our babies,” he said.
Meanwhile, acknowledging that some mothers may not be able to breastfeed their babies, he noted the Government’s establishment of several baby-friendly hospitals.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a programme started by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1991 to ensure that all hospitals become centres committed to actively encouraging and supporting breastfeeding.
In Guyana, this initiative, whereby healthcare professionals provide guidance to new mothers on breastfeeding, exists in hospitals, including the West Demerara Regional Hospital, Davis Memorial Hospital, Mahaicony Cottage Hospital, Mahdia District Hospital, Lethem Regional Hospital and the Upper Demerara Hospital.