Breastfeeding is one of the critical components of maternity. Thousands of women all over the world lack knowledge and education necessary to understand the relevance and importance of breastfeeding and its positive influence on their children’s health. For the purpose of promoting breastfeeding, the WHO and the UNICEF have created the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding policy, which recommends the steps in advocacy and education about breastfeeding. Of the ten steps proposed in the document, the need to have a clear breastfeeding policy, showing mothers how to breastfeed and practicing rooming-in can be fairly regarded as the most important elements of the discussed policy.
To begin with, all hospitals and medical facilities are to have a written breastfeeding policy which is communicated to all health care staff, who refer to mothers, babies, and their care; this policy should be made explicit, and all staff and patients should be aware of it (WHO, 1998). However, not always are such policies effective; nor is it possible to inform everyone about the importance of breastfeeding. In this context, the major problem is not in that such policies may be absent, but in that such policies can be weak, inconsistent, or incompatible with the other policies within the medical facility. Given that weak breastfeeding policies negatively influence the process of mother’s and child’s development, it is essential that the hospital staff has a well-coordinated team of professionals, who will work to create a comprehensive breastfeeding policy and will develop policy awareness among the hospital staff and patients. To make such policy effective, this team of professionals should also monitor the process of implementation and its outcomes, to address possible gaps and policy inconsistencies, and to develop a cohesive policy vision within the facility.
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Another important element of breastfeeding promotion in the world is about showing mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation in case they have to be separated from their infants (WHO, 1998). Very often, breastfeeding assistance is limited to education and oral instructions which are not always effective. Sometimes, education and instructions become irrelevant because of cultural, communicational, or language barriers between young mothers and midwives. To overcome these barriers, the medical staff must engage in practical assistance with breastfeeding and to develop trustful relationships with mothers. Bearing in mind that breastfeeding is particularly important for low-weight infants, medical staff should engage in the continuous process of interacting with mothers and providing them with continuous support and assistance regarding breastfeeding. These can be supplemented with written materials, which will help mothers understand the basic principles of breastfeeding and its positive impact on the infant’s health.
Finally, it is important that medical professionals exercise the principles of rooming-in and allow mothers and infants stay together 24 hours a day (WHO, 1998). There is a strong correlation between rooming-in and breastfeeding, as well as breastfeeding and the health state of the child. Unfortunately, one of the major problems with rooming-in is in that medical professionals do not always realize the true value of rooming-in and seek different reasons to separate mothers and their children. However, that mothers need some rest and that mother’s presence may affect the quality of the infant’s sleep during nights are at least irrelevant. In this context, continuous education of medical personnel is of critical importance; the medical staff should know the value and the positive impact of rooming-in on breastfeeding. Education and breastfeeding policies should also limit the list of reasons, for which mothers can be separated from their children. Such policies will create a more comprehensive rooming-in environment in maternity wards. In New York, Department of Health has and implements a well-developed breastfeeding program, which works in all healthcare facilities and promotes the role of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding promotion materials and breastfeeding policies are the two most widely used educational instruments, which medical facilities in New York utilize to enhance breastfeeding awareness among mothers and the medical staff.