World Breastfeeding Week Highlights the Importance of Peer Support
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action has wrapped up its 2013 World Breastfeeding Week, which ran from August 1-7. This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme, ‘BREASTFEEDING SUPPORT: CLOSE TO MOTHERS’, highlights Breastfeeding Peer Counseling. Even when mothers are able to get off to a good start, all too often in the weeks or months after delivery there is a sharp decline in breastfeeding rates, and practices, particularly exclusive breastfeeding. The period when mothers do not visit a healthcare facility is the time when a community support system for mothers is essential. Continued support to sustain breastfeeding can be provided in a variety of ways. Traditionally, support is provided by the family. As societies change, however, in particular with urbanization, support for mothers from a wider circle is needed, whether it is provided by trained health workers, lactation consultants, community leaders, or from friends who are also mothers, and/or from fathers/partners.
The Peer Counselling Program is a cost effective and highly productive way to reach a larger number of mothers more frequently. Peer Counselors can be anyone from the community who is trained to learn to support mothers. Trained Peer Counselors, readily available in the community become the lifeline for mothers with breastfeeding questions and issues. “The key to best breastfeeding practices is continued day-to-day support for the breastfeeding mother within her home and community.”
The objectives of this year’s campaign were:
- To draw attention to the importance of Peer Support in helping mothers to establish and sustain breastfeeding.
- To inform people of the highly effective benefits of Peer Counseling, and unite efforts to expand peer counseling programs.
- To encourage breastfeeding supporters, regardless of their educational background, to step forward and be trained to support mothers and babies.
- To identify local community support contacts for breastfeeding mothers, that women can go to for help and support after giving birth.
- To call on governments and maternity facilities globally to actively implement the Ten Steps, in particular Step 10, to improve duration and rates of exclusive breastfeeding.