THE Ministry of Health (MOH) is calling for breastfeeding supporters who will help mothers establish and sustain the practice of exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months.
"Anyone can become a breastfeeding supporter; we will train you and give you the requisite information," Sharmaine Edwards, the ministry's director of Nutrition Services, told reporters at a recent JIS Think Tank held at the agency's head office in Kingston.
She further stated that the programme has to be one that is sustainable, and as such, all prospective breastfeeding supporters will receive training and certification.
Edwards also mentioned that the two days of training will expose individuals to best practices, procedures and benefits of breastfeeding, and infant nutrition.
"We just need more persons to step up and support mothers in communities, because this is where they are and that is where the challenges occur," she said.
Edwards advised that people who wish to become breastfeeding supporters can contact the health departments in their parish, or they can also contact the Nutrition Unit at the health ministry and make a request.
Meanwhile, the ministry will be utilising the activities planned for the commemoration of the National Breastfeeding Week 2013, which began on Sunday, to empower and engage individuals to maintain the circles of support for lactating mothers.
"We will start with the family and other social networks, and we ask that they lend support to lactating mothers by assisting them with household chores and allow mothers to breastfeed and spend time with their infants," Edwards advised.
She further added that additional support should be given by the workplace to lactating mothers, who are often expected to return to work, from maternity leave before the recommended six-month period for exclusive breastfeeding.
"We are advocating for sensitisation in the workplace so that employers and employees know about the benefits of breastfeeding, and to encourage mothers to breastfeed," Edwards said.
She also added that the ministry is advocating for some private space where mothers can express breast milk, and flexible hours to enable mothers to express during lunch breaks.
The director of nutrition services said individuals can also get support and counselling through the health departments of the ministry, should the need arise. She noted that support groups do exist for lactating mothers with certain medical conditions such as HIV.
Expectant mothers, she advised, are also being reminded that they should move closer to hospitals and health centres during hurricanes or the presence of other severe weather systems, so that they can get the help in the event of an emergency.