Nov 07, 2015 News
…as Ministry aims to have breastfeeding corner in every ministry
Positing the belief that the importance of breastfeeding could never be understated, Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, has lauded the introduction of a breastfeeding and baby changing room in the Giftland Mall.
Minister Norton yesterday paid a visit to the East Coast Demerara mall where he was shown the room by Giftland Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Roy Beepat.
During his visit, Norton shared his delight at the introduction by the corporation. He explained that currently, his Ministry is working towards having a breastfeeding area in every single Ministry in Guyana.
“And here we have, in this shopping mall, a breastfeeding area,” an impressed Minister Norton added.
He said that breastfeeding is extremely important. A newborn should be breastfed for six months from birth.
“The only food they should have for the first six months is breast milk. The importance of the breast milk is the antibodies it gives to babies to make them strong. There is no need to give any other supplement to a baby,” he stressed.
Norton said, too, that when it comes to breastfeeding, the comfort of the mother is extremely important. He noted that the proper physical support is needed as well as a calming environment.
He also noted that while nourishing the child is important, mothers must also take care of themselves. He said that mothers must recognise that what they eat will affect the quality of breast milk produced and will in turn affect the child.
Norton commented on maternity leave in Guyana, which entitles three months of leave to working mothers. He noted that currently there is a campaign to extend the leave from three months to six months. He said this call for an extension was based on the fact that the suggested breastfeeding period is six months, yet maternity leave is only half of this time.
“But it’s even going further than that; there’s an advocacy to give fathers paternity leave for at least two weeks because they will need to help the mother in terms of cooking and cleaning. We are hoping to go in that direction,” Minister Norton shared.
He said that as the Ministry continues to encourage breastfeeding “at all costs and all around,” the work of bodies such as Giftland is an “excellent idea”.
“I commend you and I want more entrepreneurs to take your example and make provisions for breastfeeding…our mothers need the comfort you can provide,” Norton said to Beepat.
Beepat explained that the idea for a breastfeeding and baby changing room came from Giftland’s desire to please on every level.
“The secret of success for the Giftland store is really thinking about everything at all different levels and dimensions. For example, when we do a clothing line we want to cater for the big, the small, the teenage, the working person. It’s the same thought process.
“We want to make sure that if you are in a wheelchair, we’ve catered for you; we want to make sure that if you’re a new mother, there are facilities for you not only to breastfeed your baby in privacy, but also to change it,” he explained.
He noted too that he has been to countless malls around the world and has not seen breastfeeding and baby changing rooms in many of these. He said the same was true for airports.
“But we don’t think to ourselves as limited to what’s out there or what has been done in the rest of the world. We can be innovative with the rest of the world. We want to provide something better for our people,” he said.
He added that the room is used “all day” but is kept immaculate by the work of local cleaning company.
Meanwhile, when questioned on the taboo surrounding public breastfeeding, Norton said that while “taboo will remain taboo” a vigorous education campaign will be implemented.
“We need education. While I admit it might not be too convenient for a mom to feed her baby in the public, if that is the case then so be it. We have to let the mothers know how important breast milk is to the baby. We are not promoting any form of synthetic or formula; we want breast milk.”
He further revealed that within Guyana, there had been 143 cases of sepsis neonatal deaths in the past 18 months. Oftentimes, he said, this is due to poor hygienic practices by healthcare personnel.
“We have to avoid [infections] by making the immune system of the baby strong enough to fight off infections,” he stressed. “We can at least carry the fights to the bugs by ensuring that our mothers feed their babies.”
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