A little over 50 percent of babies in the country are exclusively breastfed  

Nutrition: Despite continuous advocacy on exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months, stunting is still a health concern in the country, the Department of Public Health director, Dr Pandup Tshering said during an event to observe World Breastfeeding Week yesterday.

According to the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2015, about 21.2 percent of children under five years were stunted, nine percent were underweight and 4.3 percent were wasting.

Dr Pandup Tshering said that the country observes the week every year since 2006, to advocate on the benefits of breastfeeding and to encourage women to breastfeed.

“Benefits of breastfeeding lasts a lifetime,” Dr Pandup Tshering said.

Health workers play a vital role in educating mothers on breastfeeding because most of the time, it is the health workers that a mother interacts with for any related problems, Dr Pandup Tshering added.

Presenting the nutrition status and state of Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) in the country to the health workers in the referral hospital, the health ministry’s senior programme officer of the nutrition programme,  Laigden Dzed, said that only about 51.4 percent of babies in the country are exclusively breastfed.

Laigden Dzed added that vitamin A deficiency has significantly reduced and it is no longer a public health problem since 2000.

Similarly, there is a significant reduction in anemia rates in the country. However, the rate of anemia in children in the country is 43 percent, and is still a public health issue as per the WHO classification, he said.

For the next four days, there will be various activities happening at the referral hospital to observe the week.

Around 100 nurses with the ten units involved in breastfeeding promotion will be trained for three hours every day for four days to improve their knowledge on breastfeeding.

As part of the week-long celebration, more than 20 breastfeeding and expecting mothers were educated on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the referral hospital, yesterday.

Besides educating the mothers on the importance of nutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding women, disadvantages of mixed feeding, and complementary feeding after first six months was also provided. The midwives also demonstrated various breastfeeding positions and directed mothers to visit the unit whenever they have problem related to breastfeeding. The midwives will carry out the awareness programme today as well.

Two Japanese midwives, volunteer with Japan International Cooperation Agency, Satomi Otsuka and Tomomi Kera pointed out that many children in Bhutan are underweight.

“Balanced and right complementary feeding after first six months is important to prevent underweight problems in children,” Satomi Otsuka said.

The theme this year ‘Breastfeeding: A Key to Sustainable Development,’ is about how breastfeeding is a key element in getting people to think about how to value one’s wellbeing from the start of life, and how to respect each other and care for the world.

Dechen Tshomo