FIRST POHNPEI BREAST FEEDING SUPPORT GROUP

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GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA Public Information Office Palikir, Federated States of Micronesia

NEWS RELEASE March 12, 1999

Breast feeding is the best for feeding infants. But sometimes families have questions, or mothers may think they don't have enough milk, which can almost always be helped, according to Lois Englberger, UNICEF Health and Nutrition Advisor to FSM, and Jane Elymore, National Program Manager for Food and Nutrition, FSM Department of Health, Education, and Social Affairs.

In many countries of the world, there are La Leche League groups to help. Now a group of Pohnpei mothers has also been trained so they can return to their communities and form breast feeding support groups.

Ms. Bernolina Hedson, Nurse in Charge of Delivery and Obstetrics, held a three-day workshop February 23-25, 1999, at the Pohnpei State Hospital, going through the internationally developed 12-hour Baby Friendly Hospitals Initiative (BFHI) Course of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO).

Twenty mothers representing all Pohnpei municipalities received the Course Certificate.

Mr. Bob Spegal, Director, Pohnpei State Health Services, spoke at the closing ceremony emphasizing the value of the course.

Ms. Hedson noted that this was the first training session, and more are planned.

What is really remarkable about this group of mothers, she said, is that all donated their time completely and provided their own taxi fares, receiving no stipends for the training at all. One of the mothers spoke on behalf of the group at the closing and expressed her commitment to this work, and how she valued the training and wanted to share her learning on a volunteer basis with others in her community because she knows they would benefit so much.

Often times, mothers stop breast feeding because they think they may not have enough milk. But this makes the problem worse; their concern may lead them to use an infant formula or other milk, which causes their own milk production to decrease.

In order to increase breast milk production, the baby needs to be fed more often on the breast milk, then, with the stimulation of the sucking, more milk production follows.

Ms. Berno Hedson is fully qualified in the area of breast feeding management, and completed the 40-hour and 18-hour accredited BFHI training in Fiji, in 1993, with additional training in Samoa. She is one of the first Micronesians to have been accredited in this training.

Ms. Jane Elymore, FSM Health Services, has also completed that training. With the support of UNICEF, she has been helping to organize BFHI training throughout the Federated States of Micronesia. One of those was the BFHI training for Pohnpei State Hospital staff in 1994.

The goal is for a hospital go through the Ten Steps, including developing a hospital breast feeding policy, training on breast feeding for all staff, helping mothers initiate breast feeding within a half-hour of birth, and others, including fostering the establishment of breast feeding mothers support groups.

Once a hospital feels it is ready, then an outside consultant from UNICEF or WHO is brought in to assess and judge its performance.

Dr. Bersyn Salomon, MBBS, Pediatrics Ward, points out that now no baby bottles are allowed in the obstetrics ward. He explains that this is a part of the BF policy, which he fully supports, and he wishes that more support could be provided for breast feeding as it is so important for infant health.

Nothing but breast milk should be given to the baby until the baby is around six months of age, at which time complementary foods can be started and breast feeding continued. This is the best for the baby's health, as agreed upon by international infant feeding specialists.

So far in the Pacific only two countries, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, have achieved Baby Friendly Hospitals.

Kosrae is undergoing its external assessment this May 1999. Pohnpei is planning to develop its breast-feeding support groups in the community, and try for the internal assessment in the year 2000. All of Pohnpei is invited to provide support for these efforts.

It is also very important for fathers to support the breast feeding of their children.

Any questions can be directed to Ms. Berno Hedson at Pohnpei State Hospital, Tel. 320-2216.

Congratulations Pohnpei Mothers on your successfully completed training, and best wishes in your efforts to identify more mothers in your communities to start up such support groups.

FSM 1999 "CHILDREN FIRST" CALENDAR

Children, ripe papaya, and Vitamin A are the focus of the Children First 1999 Calendar of the Federated States of Micronesia.

The calendars have been produced by the FSM Health and Nutrition Program based at the FSM Department of Health, Education, and Social Affairs with support by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), according to Jane Elymore, National Program Manager for Food Nutrition, FSM Department of Health, Education, and Social Affairs, and Lois Englberger, UNICEF Health and Nutrition Advisor.

"Children First" is the first theme, and refers to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which FSM acceded to in May 1993.

"Children First" encourages all to give special consideration to children, who make up the most vulnerable of all groups in society and who have special needs.

"Vitamin A Rich Food for Your Health" is the second them, and features children from all the states of FSM, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae, and Yap, eating or holding ripe Vitamin A-rich papaya.

Vitamin A is important for staying healthy and avoiding infections and eye problems for children and the whole family.

FSM had identified serious problems of Vitamin A Deficiency in Chuuk and Pohnpei, and there may be problems in Kosrae and Yap as well. The major cause of the problem is the change from traditional diets to the consumption of less healthy imported foods and decreased consumption of Vitamin A rich foods such as papaya, mango, dark green leafy vegetables, breadfruit, and others.

Breast feeding is also a theme, with a heart shaped picture of a breast feeding mother as the center of the calendar, emphasizing the importance of breast feeding, and breast milk as another important Vitamin A rich food.

All mothers are encouraged to give only breast milk to their babies for the first six months, and then to continue breast-feeding along with starting complementary foods.

Separate calendars were produced for each state, featuring each states' separate holidays, as well as the international events such as World Health Day, World Breast Feeding Week, and World Food Day, with the art work the same for all.

In toto, 3,000 calendars are being distributed, 1,000 each for Chuuk and Pohnpei and 500 each for Kosrae and Yap. The distribution is being carried out by the Family Food Production and Nutrition (FFPN) and Interagency Nutrition Councils in each state.

Efforts are being made for the community to understand the themes and meaning of the calendar. It is also hoped that the calendar will remind families to plant Vitamin A rich foods near their homes, including papaya, pele, chaya, karat banana, and others, to eat regularly, and give to their young growing children to provide for their Vitamin A needs.

For additional information:

Terry Thinom (FsmPio@mail.fm)

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