First Lady Mrs Rebecca Akufo -Addo has called for improved support systems that will create conducive environments for women to breastfeed their babies in their workplaces, markets, homes, communities and at social gatherings.
She said when this is done, it would help in enforcing laws on marketing of breast milk substitutes to end persistent violations of the law and protect exclusive breastfeeding.
She has also called for the extension period of maternity leave to a minimum of 14 weeks as stipulated by International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Maternity Protection Convention, 2000.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said despite the compelling research in favour of breastfeeding, a report by Ghana Health Service indicates that only 52 percent of Ghanaian mothers exclusively breastfeed their children suggesting “that a large number of Ghanaian babies are deprived of the major nutritional, health and psychological benefits of breastfeeding.”
Launching this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebration in Takoradi, Mrs Akufo-Addo said there is the need to develop breastfeeding promotional messages and undertake communication campaigns to improve knowledge about benefits of breastfeeding while addressing negative perceptions about breastfeeding.
She said the nation has to come together and put collective resources together to support breastfeeding of babies.
The theme for the Week is “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together.”
The First Lady advised mothers to give their babies the best start in life by breastfeeding them as long as necessary noting that breast milk provided children with the right nutrition and protection needed especially in the early stages of their life.
She said that it was important for mothers to know that breastfeeding was a God given process specifically designed to enhance a baby´s growth and development and that no substitute was comparable.
“The health benefits of breastfeeding don´t just last during infancy, but are sustained throughout childhood, adolescence and into adulthood as well,” she noted.
The First lady called for “strong partnership made up of government, health partners, health practitioners, communities, non-governmental organizations, media and civil society to advocate and help create utmost protective and supportive environment exclusively for breastfeeding”.
She said that would help to achieve at least a goal of 80 percent of all babies born in Ghana to be exclusively breastfed by the year 2021.
She also encouraged all well- meaning individual and institutions to be advocates of breastfeeding to “make sure that every child born in Ghana will be given a chance to survive, grow and develop into a healthy and strong citizen.”