This week, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS) celebrates World Breastfeeding Week with the theme “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal – for Life!”
Optimal breastfeeding is the single most effective preventive intervention for reducing child mortality. Breast milk provides infants with nutrients that help them grow, as well as antibodies that protect them from disease. Because Haiti has the highest mortality rate of children under five in the Western Hemisphere, with over 20,000 deaths annually, HAS places a high priority on encouraging mothers to breastfeed.
HAS community health workers visit new mothers at home within three days of delivery to discuss post-natal care and the importance of breastfeeding. HAS staff also routinely conduct breastfeeding education sessions at the hospital, at community health centers, and at community health posts, and include both men and women to ensure that new mothers have the support of their families as they attempt to breastfeed. When mothers encounter difficulties with breastfeeding, HAS nurses are trained to provide support and coaching.
Though the rate of mothers initiating breastfeeding just after delivery is high, estimated to be 96%, the rate of those exclusively breastfeeding- providing only breast milk to the child for the first six months- is relatively low. HAS community health workers emphasize not providing infants with any additional food or drink, including water, during those first six months, as exclusive breastfeeding has been shown to have immense benefits for the health of the child. Additionally, mothers and fathers are taught about the advantages that breastfeeding provides for the entire family, including economic benefits in not having to purchase formula for the child.
In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), HAS will conduct new programs and presentations focused on breastfeeding during the month of August, and promote its importance and benefits with banners and posters displayed throughout the hospital’s service area.