Breast-feeding literacy as part of Millennium Development Goals
Paper Edition | Page: 7
The world has just celebrated its 20th annual breast-feeding week. Initiated by the World Alliance for Breast-feeding Action (WABA), the event took place from Aug. 1-7, with the theme of “Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative”.
Breast-feeding is a challenge anywhere in the world, including Indonesia. Based on UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2011 report, about 44 percent of babies born between 2005 and 2009 received early initiation breast-feeding and 32 percent were exclusively breastfed.
The Indonesian government has issued Government Regulation No. 33/2012 on exclusive breast milk — breast milk without any supplementary food or beverages to a baby for the first six months after delivery — or ASI Ekslusif (ASIX).
The purposes of this regulation is to guarantee the rights of a baby to breast milk for the sake of its health and development, to create secure conditions for mother and baby in the context of breast-feeding, and to increase the roles and support of the family, community, as well as central and regional governments related to the right to exclusive breast milk.
Why exclusive breast-feeding? The World Health Organization (WHO) says that breast-feeding for the first six months of life is the best way of feeding infants to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Every mother may breast-feed her baby, but how many of them understand exclusive breast-feeding?
Successful exclusive breast-feeding is linked to the early initiation of breast-feeding. In the first hour after birth, breast-feeding helps mammary glands to produce more milk and colostrums that produce antibodies for the baby.
Breast milk is very important since it delivers an excellent immune system for the body. It also offers multiplier benefits, be they nutritional, intelligence, psychological, economic or social, both to baby and mother.
During the first six months of life, an infant’s digestion does not function fully. Breast milk, therefore, suits the infant’s digestive system, quite apart from enhancing its immune system.
This answers why exclusive breast milk is the best way of feeding humans in their first six months of life. Breast-feeding also builds the emotional relationship between mother and baby.
Who should be responsible for the exclusive breast milk campaign? Mother herself cannot play a one-woman-show role. She needs support both psychologically and physically from her surrounding environment, ranging from her family to her workplace.
The challenge for Indonesia is the people who live in poverty and who may be unaware of exclusive breast-feeding, due to their limited access to information.
However, this problem is not restricted to the poor. There are many urban, information technology-savvy people who are not well informed, if not ignorant, about exclusive breast-feeding and opt for formula milk as a result of convenience and the so-called modern way of life.
The theme “Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative” is clearly associated with Government Regulation No. 33/2012, which mandates hospitals, health centers or services and health professionals to play an important role as educators to build the public’s awareness of exclusive breast milk.
Unfortunately, many of them have not fulfilled their jobs and responsibilities. Most pregnant mothers who seek routine consultations may be informed only about the latest status of their pregnancy, without receiving adequate education on lactation periods. For sure, this is a serious matter that needs addressing.
Considering the challenges, a voluntary action initiated by the Association of Indonesian Breast-feeding Mothers (AIMI) deserves an accolade. Supported by trained lactation counselors, the community provides education to the public and raises their awareness of breast-feeding. More importantly, AIMI has built a potential dialog on the role of fathers in the breast-feeding campaign.
Various community groups, such as cultural and religious groups, housewives groups, PKK and association of wives and Dharma Wanita, may also serve as the vanguard of the campaign.
The main picture of this regulation should figure beyond the purpose. Everyone, not only the mother herself, should be literate in breast-feeding.
The government should reinforce the policy and welcome all potential possibilities that can encourage exclusive breast-feeding.
The world is now facing a global challenge on health matters as the low adaptive capacity to cope with the vulnerability of environmental degradation and climate change impacts.
The breast-feeding agenda should top the priority in global discussions. We must put the breast-feeding campaign in a bigger frame such as the Millennium Development Goals 2015.
The writer, a breast-feeding campaign volunteer, works at the Indonesian National Council on Climate Change. The opinions expressed are her own.