Health Ministry report shows breast feeding decline

FentonFerguson-1Kingston, Jamaica — Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, says that there has been a decline in exclusive breastfeeding at six weeks of age, from 63.2 per cent in 1983 to 50.3 per cent in 2011.

He said that although this is not a standard indicator, it gives valuable information relating to the fall off from exclusive breastfeeding very early in the process.

“The general introduction of water, ‘teas’ and thin porridges is the general practice. The principal concern is not simply the inappropriate timing of early feeds, but the increase in incidence of nutrition related childhood diseases, and the increased risk of chronic non-communicable diseases in adulthood that may result from these practices,” Ferguson said in his preface to the ministry’s National Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy draft document, tabled in the House of Representatives, Tuesday, July 15.

The report said that inappropriate feeding practices are major causes of infant morbidity and can have lifelong impact on intellectual and social development, as well as on health outcomes across the life course.

“These consequences impede government’s efforts towards sustainable socioeconomic development and poverty reduction,” it also stated.

It added that, despite progress in infant and young child nutrition in Jamaica, major challenges persist.

“Many children still suffer from the effects of under-nutrition and micronutrient malnutrition, namely from iron deficiency anaemia. Inappropriate feeding practices are also leading to rising incidences of overweight and obesity, which are risk factors for chronic diseases in children,” it said.

“These trends are occurring against a backdrop of dramatic changes in the global economic climate which threaten and undermine food security at the household and national levels,” it concluded.

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