“Let’s Talk More About Breast Feeding” is the theme for the National Breast Feeding week commences today,1st August. The Family Health Bureau (FHB) in collaboration with the Health Ministry has organized the National Breast Feeding Week. Health minister Maithripala Sirisena wants to see the country’s breastfeeding ratio to increase from its current 85 per cent to 100 pc. Series measures will be taken to highlight the importance of breastfeeding during the national breastfeeding week that starts today and concludes on August 7. Circulars have been issued by the ministry to provincial health directors and regional directors of health service to give special attention to this aspect.
According to an international survey carried out last year Sri Lanka tops among the South Asian region in breast feeding during the first month of an infant. This percentage is now about 85. UNICEF claims it is Sri Lanka which had intimated to the world the value of giving breast milk. Although doctors have already confirmed that breast milk is the only quality food that could be given to nourish children and improve their knowledge, some mothers yet reluctant to breast feed their children because of various myths.
No company in the world has ever produced a substitute to breast milk. Scientific studies have revealed that during different times of the day the nutrients of the breast milk change and the milk offer different nutrients at different times of the day. The infant receive different nutrients when it sucks breast milk from mother at different times (morning, mid day, evening, night etc).
The Family Health Bureau (FHB) has planned to conduct programmes throughout next month, to create awareness on the importance of breast feeding. Mothers, care takers, opinion leaders, young leaders, husbands, elderly mothers, and management categories of private institutions are the target groups for this awareness programe. Breast feeding prevents infants from falling victims to diseases such as diabetes, heart ailments and other health problems. The mother’s health too improves if she breast feeds her child. Inauguration programme had been conducted at the Castle Street Hospital for Women with over 200 pregnant mothers and mothers who have already given birth.
Sri Lanka government has implemented laws to ensure that mothers were given the opportunity to breast feed their babies after their birth. The public sector provides working mothers three months paid leave, and an additional three months leave on half pay. If they want to stay longer to ensure that their babies receive adequate nurturing they are given three more months’ no-pay leave. In addition they are allowed to leave their work places one hour earlier once they report for duty to breast feed their babies. Fathers serving in the public sector too are able to apply for one month leave to help their wives once the baby is born. However the facility to new mother to leave the work place an hour earlier than the stipulated time has not been fully implemented by all private sector organizations, hence the Government is still negotiating the matter with relevant authorities.
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