Breastfeeding seminars

Ministry of Health Guide to Maternal and Baby Health Benefits


Breastfeeding has health benefits for both baby and mother, advises the Department of Health. Photo taken from –

A mother breastfeeding her child is one of the most natural things in the world, but for some it’s not the easiest.

As such, the Department of Health has developed the book Breastfeeding and Beyond: A Guide to Infant and Child Feeding to help new mothers and answer important questions that arise during the first months of a baby’s life. National Breastfeeding Coordinating Unit Director Debra Thomas likens it to two new people at work. She said it’s not complicated but there is a learning curve.

“Even if it’s not a mother’s first baby, the baby must learn to breastfeed. Although it is a natural process, it is something that mom and baby need to be supported for. You need to give them time to learn the whole process.

“Because we think breastfeeding is so natural, we sometimes make moms feel like it’s simple. It takes patience, and one of the very important parts of the whole process has to do with the confidence the mother has in getting the job done.

Debra Thomas, head of the National Breastfeeding Coordinating Unit. Source: Ministry of Health –

“Hence why we have laid out the stages of preparation for the mother and some of the problems she might encounter.”

The book was developed by the National Breastfeeding Coordination Unit with funding and technical support from the Pan American Health Organization.

It involves everything a mother needs to know, including the support she has at public hospitals, the different types of breast milk, a comparison between breast milk and formula, ways to hold a baby for the breastfeeding, alternative feeding methods, breast and nipple care, introducing solid foods, recipes, and more.

Thomas, a registered nurse for 35 years, a registered midwife for 24, a mother of three and a grandmother, told WMN that all of the topics covered in the book are issues she has faced almost every day from her career as a midwife.

The cover of Breastfeeding and Beyond, a Department of Health publication –

“From the first chapter, we want to let mothers know that there is a strategy, BFHI (The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative), in place in all public hospitals that would support them in breastfeeding, educate them, give them the information needed to prepare them and their families to breastfeed.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations International Children’s Fund encouraged Member States to develop BFHI because babies were dying due to poor nutritional choices and poor food hygiene practices.

In line with these recommendations, the Ministry of Health created the National Breastfeeding Coordination Unit in 2018 and the first National Breastfeeding Policy was launched in 2020.

Thomas said there are health benefits to breastfeeding both mothers and babies.

For example, the action of a baby suckling releases a hormone that causes the uterus to contract and help it return to its normal size. It also reduces the risk of excessive postpartum bleeding, burns extra calories, which helps the mother lose weight after childbirth, reduces the risk of mothers developing breast and ovarian cancer, etc.

“Mothers who receive support are much more likely to successfully breastfeed. It is necessary that this support not only comes from the nursing staff or lactation counsellors, but it is important that the family support.

“I say this because sometimes family can be a deterrent to breastfeeding. Because they don’t understand the process, they encourage mothers to find alternative nutritional sources for the baby.

Breast milk is the perfect blend of nutrients for babies. Photo taken from –

Family members may believe myths associated with breastfeeding such as breastmilk is too thin and will not satisfy the baby, or that the mother does not have enough milk to satisfy the child.

However, she pointed out that breast milk is the perfect blend of nutrients for a baby and that the composition of milk changes daily to meet the child’s needs. Also, the longer a baby is allowed to breastfeed, the more breast milk the mother produces.

In addition, breast milk is free, accessible, always at the right temperature for the baby.

Thomas said the ministry encourages on-demand feeding. Therefore, if a mother has gone out with the baby and the baby is hungry, she should be allowed to feed her child.

As such, she believes that supportive environments should be encouraged in public spaces such as airports, shopping malls, religious facilities and community centers. It could be a simple private space with chairs and the ability to sanitize where women could “feel safe and maintain their dignity” when breastfeeding or expressing breastmilk.

There are already such spaces called “lactation rooms” in public hospitals and health centers for patients and staff.

“We want that to happen, not just in public health settings, but we want organizations to start developing those supportive environments. When mothers have to return to work, we don’t want them to be discouraged from breastfeeding because there are no comfortable or safe spaces to express milk. It is important to help support breastfeeding.

In the case of a working environment, electrical outlets and a small refrigerator where the expressed milk could be stored should be included.

Debra Thomas, Head of the National Breastfeeding Coordination Unit, Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health and Dr. Erica Wheeler, PAHO/WHO Country Representative pose for a photo during the presentation of the Guide to Breastfeeding. infant and child feeding and national breastfeeding policy in December . PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH –

She commended Unit Trust Corporation and the Central Bank for creating such spaces for their employees and encouraged employers to contact the Breastfeeding Unit with any questions regarding the creation of such a space.

A relatively new concept for some is the alternative cup-feeding method, which the ministry encourages rather than bottle-feeding or the use of teats.

“You’d be surprised how naturally a baby drinks from a cup. And that cup could be any little cup that mom could sterilize and put her breast milk in. This is where family support comes in because there are times when mom has to be away. Any member of the family can learn to cup feed the baby.

She pointed out that pacifiers are unhygienic as they are usually open to airborne dust and germs, and if they fall on the floor babies tend to just put them back in their mouths, or mothers toss them. would simply wipe on their clothes. .

She said pacifiers also cause malocclusion if the gums that alter the upper and lower teeth line up incorrectly. And the “non-nutritive sucking” of the bottle and the teat causes “nipple confusion” because the shape of the teat and that of the mother’s areola are different, which could deter the baby from breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding and Beyond: A Guide to Infant and Child Feeding also guides mothers when introducing their babies to solid foods.

After six months of exclusive breastfeeding, babies can be introduced to ‘complementary feeding’, although they can breastfeed up to two years of age and beyond.

The book shows that expensive baby food from the grocery store is not necessary. Rather, it can be prepared at home, providing babies with different textures and foods from the six Caribbean food groups as they grow. It also shows the tools that can be used to prepare baby food and how it can be done with breast milk.

The book is free.

It can be downloaded from the ministry’s website and given to pregnant women in prenatal consultations in public health establishments. Some hard copies will be made in Braille and electronic copies will be ready for screen readers for the visually impaired.

Additionally, Thomas said those interested in becoming a breastfeeding counselor can contact the breastfeeding unit as the ministry wants the community to support breastfeeding.