Bhutan Celebrates World Breastfeeding Week 2017

World Breastfeeding week is observed every year from 1-7 August to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. This year’s theme, “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together,” calls on all to support breastfeeding- the best source of nutrients for infants. Throughout the week, the Ministry of Health will be promoting good breastfeeding practices on national television, in print media and through activities in eight Dzongkhags.

The celebration of the World Breastfeeding Week 2017 in Bhutan began yesterday at the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Birthing Center, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital, Thimphu. The event included presentations on breastfeeding support at the National Referral Hospital, sharing patient experiences on breastfeeding, and on Baby Friendly Hospital initiative for neonatal wards. Similar activities were also simultaneously held in 8 other districts of Bhutan.

According to estimates from the Ministry of Health, currently only half of Bhutanese children are currently exclusively breastfed for the recommended first six months of life. Minister of Health, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk underlined the need for cooperation across sectors to promote breastfeeding on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Day, “ I call upon government sectors, autonomous bodies, private sectors, civil-society organizations, monastic institutions, local governments and others working for the common good to create environments that promote breastfeeding and allow women and children to survive and thrive.” In 2016, the Royal Government of Bhutan extended maternity leave from three months to six months for all civil servants.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastmilk is the natural first food for babies, it provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one-third during the second year of life. In addition, breastmilk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness.

Also, breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers: it helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment.