May 14, 2010, 3:20 PM
The National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) will embark on a month-long celebration of world Breastfeeding week instead of a week-long event.
The theme of this years event is "Mother support; Going FOR GOLD".
Delivering her speech to the Nation, the Vice-president and chairperson of the National Nutrition Council, Dr. Isatou Njie Saidy, said this year's celebration is special because it coincides with the Olympics. "As countries send their best athletes to compete at the Olympic Games it is important to remember that a healthy athlete emerges from a healthy start to life," she said.
She stated that experts have now agreed that breast milk alone can provide all that a baby normally needs for the first six months of life and no extra drinks or feeds are needed during this period. She added that it is also proven that mothers breast milk fosters optimal growth and development of the baby's brain, immune system and general physiology and is a vital factor in preventing common illnesses, especially diarrhea and infections of the respiratory and the urinary tracts.
VP Njie Saidy pointed out that exclusive breastfeeding can also boost a mother's immune system, saves the mother money, energy and time, delay pregnancy and help protect the mother from breast and the ovarian cancers. Many mothers find that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is simple provided the environment and the support needed are provided.
According to her unfortunately in many countries exclusive breastfeeding rates are low but in The Gambia 45% of the mothers practice exclusive breastfeeding for six months of their baby's life.
She said the National Nutrition Agency and its partners such as IBFAN, UNICEF, WHO, DOSH and other NGO's have made, and will continue to make, tremendous efforts in promoting optimal breastfeeding through programmes such as the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), Baby Friendly Community Initiative (BFCI) and the Child Survival Programmes (CSP) noting that today there are over 20 health facilities both public and private implementing the BFHI and 293 communities implementing the BFCI