Thursday, March 10, 2016

Naga City opens third breastfeeding center
By Danny O. Calleja

DARAGA, Albay, March 9 (PNA) -- The local government of Naga City has opened another breastfeeding center within the local public transport terminal, according to the National Nutrition Council (NNC) here.

Manned by trained nutrition counselors, the facility was established within the vast Bicol Central Station (BCS) -- the main transport terminal being operated by the city government.

It is intended for lactating mothers who are traveling with their infants via public land transportation, said Arlene Reario, NNC regional program coordinator.

Its establishment and recent opening, according to Reario, highlighted the significance of a specific place where breastfeeding can be continuously practiced even in a public place without compromising the privacy of lactating mothers.

Many mothers find it difficult to continue breastfeeding while travelling unless they have their own vehicle or there is a nearby place to drop-by so they can breastfeed their baby, so when in Naga City, this worry has been eased, she stressed.

Reario said that the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 mandates all health and non-health facilities, establishments or institutions to establish lactation stations.

Naga City, led by Mayor John Bongat, she said, once again provided an enabling environment which not only promotes breastfeeding but also provides a venue for nutrition counseling for mothers and caregivers.

This is a solid way to advocate breastfeeding in the workplace or support women to breastfeed while at the bus terminal, according to Reario.

She said that the breastfeeding station at the People’s Mall of Naga continues to provide a place for vendors and shoppers who are lactating mothers a place in the market to breastfeed their baby.

The Naga City government started putting into operation its first breastfeeding center located at the City Hall complex, now serving as an exclusive place for nursing mothers working or transacting businesses in offices around, in the late part of 2012.

All the three breastfeeding facilities that the city operates now are fully equipped with breastfeeding facilities like lavatory, refrigerator and breast pumps. They maintain a corner where mothers can extract their milk by way of breastfeeding pumps and an area where they can express their milk with their babies.

All manned by personnel from the Naga City Population and Nutrition Office who conduct counseling services for mothers on infant and child feeding, each center is also equipped with audio-visual and reading materials that contain information on infant and maternal health care.

The establishment of breastfeeding centers is a strategy being adopted by the city government to address extreme poverty and hunger, and to reduce infant mortality rate, goals that are under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Reario explained.

MDG 4 aims to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds so that at all times, breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding should be promoted, protected and supported, she said.

In the context of the First 1000 Days of Life, promotion and practice of breastfeeding is vital as one of the evidence-based interventions to address child under-nutrition.

It is also one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent infant and young child deaths.

“So, when at the BCS, the public market or at the City Hall complex of Naga, mothers who need a convenient place to breastfeed their babies are worry-free. They can even learn the proper and advisable way from trained counselors manning the facilities,” Reario said.

She said it is a proven fact that breast milk is best for babies and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition as in addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients that babies need in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect them from illness.

Numerous studies from around the world have shown that stomach viruses, lower respiratory illnesses, ear infections and meningitis occur less often in breastfed babies and are less severe when they do happen.

Exclusive breastfeeding--meaning no solid food, formula, or water for at least six months -- seems to offer the most protection, according to Reario.

Breast milk is a unique nutritional source that cannot adequately be replaced by any other food, including infant formula.

Although pollutants can accumulate in breast milk, it remains superior to infant formula from the perspective of the overall health of both mother and child.

Infants are fragile and susceptible to disease, partly because their bodies are not fully developed, the reason why they must be treated with special care and given adequate nourishment.

Infant formulas are able to mimic a few of the nutritional components of breast milk, but formula cannot hope to duplicate the vast and constantly changing array of essential nutrients in human milk.

Poor nutrition, she said, leads to the high infant mortality rate in the Bicol as latest data indicate that about one out of 10 babies in the region dies due to health problems triggered by malnutrition.

Given such prevalence, policy makers and local government officials need to set their priorities and properly allocate resources to ensure the best health care first through breastfeeding, possible is made available so that the MDGs 4 is met, Reario added. (PNA) PGL/FGS/DOC/CBD