Worldwide, midwives and nurses play a vital role in protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding. Research shows that skilled breastfeeding support from midwives and nurses helps prevent childhood infections and deaths, while boosting their cognitive development and decreasing rates of obesity, diabetes, and maternal and child cancers.
Bonding and attachment are intrinsic to the breastfeeding relationship and foster mental and emotional health and development for both mother and child. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), universal breastfeeding could prevent 823,000 child deaths and 20,000 maternal deaths each year and spur significant economic savings.
With the aim to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world, World Breastfeeding Week is annually celebrated from August 01st to 07th. The WHO notes that it is celebrated by 170 countries to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding because breastfed children are more intellectual and fit. This year is celebrated with a unique theme “Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support”.
As World Breastfeeding Week is being commemorated, it is important for us to spread awareness about the importance of education and support for breastfeeding. It’s also key to inform the community that breastfeeding is not a social stigma but a requirement that shapes a child’s physical and mental wellbeing including shaping the mother. In Uganda, there are ongoing country-wide celebrations at various health facility levels, in communities and in other public, private and not government organizations and institutions.
Providing support for breastfeeding is an essential competency for midwives and nurses generally and not an additional role. In Uganda, midwives and nurses independently manage lower health centers II, III and they are the key cadre responsible for supporting mothers after delivery and their newborns even at HC IV, district, regional and national referral hospitals.
Midwives and nurses support breastfeeding as an integral part of respectful quality care. They endorse the importance of breastfeeding, provide support, and protect mothers from practices that can be a barrier to breastfeeding. In-fact, most mothers and infants breastfeed easily and comfortably, however, when complex challenges arise, midwives and nurses with additional training and expertise provide skilled assistance with breastfeeding and collaborate with other healthcare providers.
Additionally, midwives and nurses provide personalized information and care to build a trusting relationship with mothers that enables them to nourish and nurture their children. Beyond clinical care, midwives and nurses also serve as health educators, managers, leaders, researchers, and policymakers. The community and public health nurses and midwives interact with mothers, infants and young children across the full perinatal breastfeeding continuum.
It is therefore important for the government of Uganda (GOU) through the respective ministries to add more efforts and invest in midwives and nurses to substantially improve breastfeeding rates, fully integrate critical breastfeeding competencies into pre-service training and continuing education for all midwives and nurses, fund and develop comprehensive specialized training for midwives and nurses to enable them to address complex breastfeeding situations and ensure that they are available to families as needed.
Additionally, I, further recommend the GOU through the Ministry of Health to fully integrate quality and respectful maternal and newborn care, as stated in the global standards of the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative, the WHO Human Resource Strategies to Improve Newborn Care in Health Facilities in Low- and Middle-income Countries and the WHO Standards for Improving Quality of Care for Small and Sick Newborns in Health Facilities so as to meet the Sustainable Development Goal targets for mothers, infants, and young children.
Mania Media urges the GOU to establish and enforce legislation to protect breastfeeding in training and work environments by refusing sponsorship from companies that market foods for infants and young children for scholarships, awards, grants, meetings or events as defined in the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions. The GOU should add more efforts and allocate adequate staffing levels to ensure adequate time for supporting mothers and infants as they begin breastfeeding.
There is a great need to also strengthen the leadership role of midwives and nurses at national, local, and facility levels and ensure the inclusion of midwives and nurses on national breastfeeding committees addressing infant young child feeding and maternal infant and young child nutrition.