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Monday October 18, 2010

Private hospitals lagging behind in being baby-friendly

GEORGE TOWN: Despite being the third country in the world to have all public hospitals certified as “baby-friendly” by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and World Health Organisation (WHO), private hospitals in Malaysia are still lagging behind, said Malaysian Breastfeeding Association president Siti Norjinah Moin.

She said private hospitals accounted for a mere 4.5% or six of the 133 “baby-friendly” hospitals whose practices were supportive of breastfeeding.

“The baby-friendly hospitals consist of 123 government hospitals, two military hospitals, two university hospitals and six private hospitals.

“In many countries, it is the private sector that drives this initiative, but that is not so in Malaysia,” she said.

Siti Norjinah, who is a key member of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in the country, said one of the private hospitals was in Penang, another in Ipoh and four in Kuala Lumpur.

“In 1998, Malaysia was the third country in the world to have all its public hospitals certified baby-friendly after Sweden and Oman.

“However, we still have a very low rate for exclusive breastfeeding (meaning that the baby is not given any other food or drink besides breast milk) in the first six months, only 14.7% compared to the WHO average of 35%,” she said, adding that the Health Ministry was aiming at bringing the rate to 33% in the next five years.

Siti Norjinah was speaking to reporters at the start of the three-day Expanded Global Breastfeeding Partners Forum at Bayview Beach Resort Penang.

World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) steering committee chairman Dr Felicity Savage said hospitals had to fulfil 10 criteria before being certified “baby-friendly” by the authorities.

Among them are having all staff trained to help mothers breastfeed, giving infants no formula unless medically indicated and practising “rooming in” where mothers and infants stay in the same room from delivery.

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