World Breastfeeding Week: Public Health Minister makes a case for working mums

Cameroon’s Public Health Minister has called on employers in Cameroon to make the workplace conducive for working mums to exclusively breastfeed their babies even while at work.

The call is in accordance with the theme of the 31st World Breastfeeding Week; “ Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents.” World Breastfeeding Week will be observed in Cameroon from August 1-7.

Dr. Manaouda Malachie launched the 31st World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) in Yaoundé on July 27, 2023 in an event attended by hundred of breastfeeding mothers.

Hundreds of nursing mums turned out for the launch of the 31st World Breastfeeding Week.

Midwives, doctors, nurses, and fathers also turned out to support nursing mothers as they make a case for working conditions that favor for exclusive breastfeeding.

A case for working women

Working women in Cameroon have a-14week maternity leave, while fathers have a right to a-three day paternity leave. But many women say the time off work is insufficient to permit them follow through with Exclusive breastfeeding. Working conditions do not make things any better, they say.

The World Health Organization (WHO)  recommends that babies be placed on Exclusive Breastfeeding within one hour after birth till six months, and complementary feeding introduced  alongside breastfeeding till two years and above.

As  Dr. Manaouda Malachie launched the World Breastfeeding Week, he called on employers to support mothers through the provision of crèches, breastfeeding rooms in workplaces and flexible working hours.

Dr. Manaouda Malachie launched the World Breastfeeding Week on July 27 in Yaounde.

“We need to intensify efforts to educate, support, promote and encourage efforts that favor exclusive breastfeeding so that mums can practice breastfeeding in an optimum way by immediate latching within the first hour, exclusively breastfeed till 6months and provide adequate complementary feeding coupled with the continuation of breastfeeding up till two years or more,” he said.

Breastfeeding progress

A total of 9700 avoidable deaths caused by the absence of breastfeeding is recorded in infants below two years in Cameroon, annually.

The most recent Demographic and Health Survey(DHS) study shows an increase in exclusive breastfeeding from 11.9% in 1991 to 48.4% in 2018. The Exclusive Breastfeeding rate in children aged 0-6 months has also increased from 28% in 2011 to 40% in 2018, according to the same study.

However, these figures are still below WHO’s recommendation which targets a 50% Exclusive Breastfeeding rate in every country by 2025.

To meet up with the WHO requirement, health experts in Cameroon say communication on Exclusive Breastfeeding will be intensified during the WBW 2023. Debates will be organized in the media to educate mothers on the importance of breastfeeding. Advocacy meetings with media persons, distribution of flyers , banners , T-shirts, leaflets bearing important messages on breastfeeding will also mark the  advocacy for Exclusive Breastfeeding.

Prohibiting Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS)

Decree No 2005/5168 /PM of December 1, 2005 regulates the sale of BMS  in Cameroon.

It is prohibited to promote or sell BMS in hospitals in Cameroon, or distribute free samples of milk, feeding bottles, or substitutes to nursing mothers . These are some of the measures taken by the government to prevent the use of BMS, protect and promote breastfeeding in Cameroon.

The Public Health Minister, Dr. Manaouda Malachie reiterated these measures during the launch of  the World Breastfeeding Week in July 27 in Yaoundé.

Cameroon’s  Ministry of Health recommends early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth, Exclusive Breastfeeding for the first six months of life, continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond, with the introduction of appropriate complementary food as from six months.

Kathy Neba Sina

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