Need to re-establish breastfeeding as preferred choice of feeding for all infants, says Minister Husnoo

My vision is to re-establish breastfeeding as the preferred choice of feeding for all infants in the early months of life, said the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Dr Anwar Husnoo, this morning at the launching of a report of the study on knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices of breastfeeding in Mauritius.

The Health Minister highlighted that breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life, provides a unique early bonding experience for infants and their mothers which contributes to the mother's wellbeing and the baby's psychological, emotional and social development. Moreover, exclusive breastfeeding provides immediate health benefits to the infant as it reduces the incidence of certain diseases such as respiratory tract infections, otitis media and diarrhea, he said.

Referring to the study carried out in 2017 among 480 surveyed mothers with babies aged between 6 to 12 months, Minister Husnoo stated that some findings are a matter of concern. He pointed out that only 25% of the 480 babies were exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life. Hence the need, he emphasised, for additional efforts to reach the target of 50% by the year 2025 set by the World Health Organisation as one of its Global Nutrition Targets.

He further stated that health professionals need to be better informed on how to identify and address specific needs of mothers, including those who have undergone caesarean section or other forms of instrumental birth or who have given birth prematurely. There is also a need, he said, to broaden the promotion of breastfeeding at the society level and target specifically school children, pregnant and postnatal women, their partners and families.

The study

The aim of the study, conducted by the Mauritius Institute of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, was to explore the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices of breastfeeding among nursing mothers in Mauritius and to formulate recommendations for promoting breastfeeding.

The study revealed, amongst others, that 98% of mothers declared to have ever breastfed their babies; 76% of mothers who ever breastfed did so after one hour following childbirth and 24% initiated breastfeeding within one hour after giving birth; and 60% of mothers were assisted to start breastfeeding. 39% of the 480 babies covered by the study were exclusively breastfed during the four-month period after birth whereas only 25% were so during the first six months of life.

77% of mothers received information on breastfeeding, mostly in postnatal wards out of which 96% were informed on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and 89% were advised on the benefits of colostrum. Furthermore, the study reveals that 94% of all mothers were aware that breast milk protects babies against diseases.

Based on the findings and recommendations of the Study Report, an Action Plan will be developed and will include up-to-date strategies for the promotion of breastfeeding in the community

Source: Government of Mauritius