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Mothers who exclusively breastfed their babies for six months were recognized as role models at Lesotho’s celebration of National Breastfeeding Week. Photo: UNICEF.

Babies who are properly breastfed can grow up to be healthy and strong like Olympic athletes. That’s the message Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso of Lesotho delivered to families across the country last month to mark World Breastfeeding Week and its theme, “Mother Support: Going for the Gold.”

The queen’s message was backed by the Infant and Young Child Nutrition (IYCN) project, an initiative funded by the US Agency for International Development and led by PATH, with partners CARE, the Manoff Group, and University Research Corporation. The IYCN project aims to improve nutrition for women, infants, and young children. Working with Lesotho’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH/SW), the IYCN project helped the queen convey the importance of breastmilk to close a week-long campaign promoting breastfeeding across the country.

“It is very important for people to hear about good breastfeeding practices from Queen Masenate,” said Makatleho Masoabi, Lesotho country coordinator for the IYCN project. “People really listen to what she has to say. After her speech, mothers felt encouraged to breastfeed their babies and they wanted to learn more about good breastfeeding practices.”

Improving nutrition, encouraging growth

The IYCN project promotes optimal breastfeeding practices—proven methods for reducing malnutrition and enhancing child growth and survival. They include initiating breastfeeding immediately after childbirth, exclusively breastfeeding during the first six months of life, and continuing to breastfeed for at least two years while adding adequate complementary foods into the child’s diet starting at six months old.

During World Breastfeeding Week, the IYCN project worked closely with the MOH/SW, breastfeeding advocates, and local groups to help communities learn more about breastfeeding and child nutrition. Project staff helped translate flyers, posters, and other informational materials into Sesotho, the local language, for distribution to mothers at ten hospitals across the country. The team also contacted matrons (nurse midwives) at hospitals to encourage nurses to counsel and support mothers on optimal breastfeeding practices before, during, and after delivery.

To reach communities across Lesotho, the IYCN project joined partners in two local radio interviews and answered questions from callers, most of whom wanted to know more about breastfeeding for HIV-positive women.

“Many families in Lesotho are unsure about breastfeeding practices for HIV-positive women,” said Masoabi. Exclusive breastfeeding can increase HIV-free survival for infants and young children.

About IYCN

Malnutrition contributes to more than one-third of child deaths in developing countries. To prevent malnutrition, the IYCN project focuses on the critical time period from pregnancy until the child is two years of age. The project’s nutrition interventions are aimed at improving maternal and child nutrition and providing nutritional guidance to help prevent the transmission of HIV to infants and young children. The IYCN project is active in more than a dozen countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The project has comprehensive programs and offices in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Lesotho, Madagascar, and Zambia.

More information

Posted September 11, 2008.