“Heatwaves create difficulties for breastfeeding” – Tajikistan steps up for babies’ health
A country with hot summers and vast rural areas, Tajikistan has had to fine-tune its approach to promoting breastfeeding and protecting infants’ health. WHO highlights the country’s experience during World Breastfeeding Week 2022 (1–7 August). Breastfeeding protects from cancer: positive messages for parents“In our country, many mothers practice exclusive breastfeeding, but not for long. There is a drop off in exclusive breastfeeding rates of infants at the age of 4–5 months. Heatwaves might be one of the reasons, which, of course, can be challenging for parents of little children. During hot seasons, many parents tend to give their children water to drink – even though breast milk can effectively fulfil all a baby’s nutrition needs,” said Dr Sherali Rakhmatulloev, Tajikistan’s Sectoral Chief Specialist on childhood diseases. WHO recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants for at least the first 6 months of their lives. There is solid evidence that exclusive breastfeeding will not only keep a baby well-fed and happy, but also protect them from noncommunicable diseases, lowering the risks of childhood obesity, diabetes and even some types of cancer.To promote this message and amplify its reach, Tajikistan’s authorities are counting on health professionals.In rural areas of Tajikistan, accounting for more than 70% of the country’s population, the role of primary health care is especially important. Here, health professionals can be the only source of health information and can bring long-lasting positive changes.Mothers need further support“After the mother returns home from maternity hospital, she and her family need further support. Of course, parents with small children go to their primary health care provider. Based on the guidance they get there, the parents will know what’s the best way to feed the baby,” added Dr Rakhmatulloev.He was one of the first doctors in Tajikistan to introduce the WHO-recommended practice of letting mothers stay together with their babies in maternity rooms and start breastfeeding shortly after birth. Today, this is a normal practice in many hospitals across the country.According to Dr Rakhmatulloev, expanding health literacy and communication of the latest evidence-based information is the key for introducing good health practices.The WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases is supporting this work by organizing a series of workshops and consultations as part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). BFHI activities are aimed at training the trainers and giving Tajikistan’s health professionals the right guidelines and other tools to promote exclusive breastfeeding as the best choice for both mothers’ and infants’ health.Best choice for mother and babyWith the help of primary health professionals, fewer people in Tajikistan are relying on breast milk substitutes and other infant food products that can have a harmful effect on babies’ health. Ten years ago, the exclusive breastfeeding rate in Tajikistan was around 24%. In 2017, it reached 36%. To increase these rates even further, the country’s authorities are currently updating their national health strategy in line with the WHO European Programme of Work 2020–2025. The national goal is to reach a 50% exclusive breastfeeding level by 2025.The BFHI training programmes enhance the implementation of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding recommended by WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
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