We promote immediate and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding for two years, along with appropriate complementary feeding.
Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) for the first six months of life, without adding any other foods or liquids including water, is a natural and irreplaceable way to promote healthy growth and development of infants. It ensures optimal nutrition, reduced morbidity and mortality due to infections, and delayed return of fertility for family planning.
Quick Facts About EBF
- EBF protects infants against many common childhood diseases, and infants who are not exclusively breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die of diarrhea, two of the most important contributors to child mortality.
- If every new mother breastfed, it is estimated that 1.3 million lives could be saved and 21.9 million DALYs could be prevented.
- Although breastfeeding is the world’s most effective solution to reducing child deaths, global breastfeeding rates have stagnated at below 40 percent for two decades.
We provide mothers with messages about the importance of breastfeeding within one hour of birth, to take advantage of the nutrients and protective benefits of colostrum. We follow this by promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and complementary breastfeeding for children after six months. Through our existing networks we promote EBF in communities as well as through the public and private health sectors. We use a variety of approaches in order to make messages culturally sensitive and ensure mothers understand the importance of breastfeeding for the health of their children.
Making a Difference
Ayesha Leghari is part of the maternal and child health program at Greenstar Social Marketing Pakistan Limited, a PSI independent network member. She is one of the mothers who could have used our message about breastfeeding years ago when she was a new mother.
“When my eldest son was born, the elders of my family told me to dispose of the breast milk I first produced because it was considered dirty and stale,” Ayesha recalls. “I showed no hesitance in wasting it since it did seem stale to me. With the birth of my second baby, I did the same – I threw out the thick, yellow milk within the first hour of giving birth.”
Ayesha learned just how wrong that was when she started working for Greenstar’s USAID-funded maternal and child health program in Pakistan. “A pang of guilt ran through my body when I learned that the “stale” milk – which is actually called Colostrum – that I had so promptly wasted was filled with the most essential nutrients that I could have given my newborns,” she says. Colostrum is rich in vital nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, vitamin A, and sodium chloride, which help protect newborns from viral infections, diarrhea, and jaundice.
“It is a bit ironic that I am working to educate mothers about breastfeeding, when I was once a mother who needed to learn a thing or two,” Ayesha notes. Developing a television commercial to promote EBF – the first mass media campaign on exclusive breastfeeding in Pakistan – gave her the opportunity to learn about the myths and misconceptions that exist in her society, and how these small neglected behaviors affect the health of children throughout their lives.
“My hope,” Ayesha concludes, “Is that this program educates all mothers in Pakistan, so that we can give our children the best start in life.
Greenstar developed this commercial in conjunction with USAID and the Department of Health of the Government of Sindh, to encourage mothers to breastfeed their newborns within the first hour of birth. This message is part of a five year maternal and child health program.
- Non-Communicable Disease Life Course Pocket Cards
At the 61st session of the UN"s Commission on the Status of Women, PSI and its partners on the Women and NCDs Task Force promoted a set of pocket cards illustrating a woman's risk for non-communicable diseases over the course of her lifetime.