Breastfeeding nurtures healthy life - hospitals, families and women at the grassroots work hand in hand

The theme of World Breastfeeding Week for 2018 is “Breastfeeding: the foundation of life”. The logo is made up of two persons and one baby. It emphasizes the importance of working together to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Branches, leaves and sprouts represent growth and development. Green leaves represent the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal of health, the brown color represents the goal of Zero Hunger (nutrition). 

The first week of August 2018 is the 27th anniversary of World Breastfeeding Week. There are over 120 countries in the world that participate in celebrating this. China is one of them. World Breastfeeding Week emphasizes the important values of breastfeeding to mother and children. It advocates exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and to continue breastfeeding until two years old. 

▲ All participants of the Wuding Nutrition Forum

To celebrate 2018 WBW, Wuding Health and Family Planning Bureau and Wuding Maternal and Child Health Hospital hosted the “Wuding Maternal Health and Nutrition Forum” on July 20, 2018. They shared the results of the Cooperation Project on Strengthening Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) between with World Vision. The Forum also purported to facilitate different departments to participate in the promotion of breastfeeding and to establish an enabling environment for children to grow healthily and happily. World Vision supported and participated in this meaningful forum.  

Mr. Zhang Jian-bo, Deputy County Magistrate, Ms Edith Chang, Zonal Manager from Yunnan Representative Office gave opening speech. The Forum invited maternal health and nutrition experts from within and outside of Yunnan Province, counties in Chu Xiong Prefecture, county and township health departments of Wuding County, County Women Federation, County Work Committee for the care of the next generation, county poverty reduction office. Altogether 191 participants (57 males and 133 females) from 40 organizations or departments participated. Forty-five of them were in leaders in these organizations. There were 6 organizations from other province and from national level. Another 12 organizations were from Kunming City and Chu Xiong Prefecture. Within Wuding County, 21 county or township level organizations had participated. 


▲ Zhang Jian-bo, Vice-magistrate of Wuding County delivered opening speech for the Forum


▲ Edith Chang, Yunnan Representative Office of World Vision delivered opening speech for the Forum


 Dr. Christy Fong, Health Department of World Vision China shared on the theme of 2018 World Breastfeeding Week.  


The guest speakers for the Forum included Dr. Lai Jian-qiang, Deputy Director of the National Institute for Nutrition and Health of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Ms Ding Juan, researcher of the Women Research Center of the All China Women Federation, Ms Li Hai-miao, Nursing Officer of the Beijing Haidian Maternal and Child Health Hospital, and Ms Teng Yue, Head of the Maternal Nutrition Division of the Beijing Haidian MCH Hospital. Li Hai-miao is also the nationally certified BFHI trainer. They shared on four important topics: a) Chinese national maternal and child nutrition strategies; b) experience and key skills on BFHI; c) short term and long term influence of maternal nutrition; d) gender equity and care for mother in relation to maternal and child health and nutrition. The participants  were greatly benefited and engaged in discussion enthusiastically. 


▲ Dr. Lai Jian-qiang of the Chinese CDC shared on national nutrition strategy

Breastfeeding - start from child birth at hospital

The China's program for the development of children (2011-2020) explicitly proposes "improving the nutritional status of children, strengthening the establishment and management of baby friendly hospitals, improving and implementing the relevant policies to support breastfeeding, and actively promoting breastfeeding." It includes an important indicator and target of reaching 50% of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. In 2014, the Chinese government also issued a “Notice on the Review of the Baby Friendly Hospital work”, and accorded great importance to this. 

As a child-focused organization, World Vision has paid great attention to child health and nutrition in its poverty reduction programs in Wuding. Since 2013, World Vision has started partnering with Wuding MCH Hospital in the “Program for Strengthening BFHI”. The standard requirements of BFHI are adapted into four protocols and has improved the technical skills and management of breastfeeding care in the hospital. The hard work of the hospital team has resulted in good results. For example, the percentage of term infants who received only breast milk throughout their stay at the hospital was increased from 0% to 70%, and is still improving. 

Support from husbands and family members

Breastfeeding is a family matter. The time of hospital stay is a great opportunity to facilitate husbands and mothers-in-law to support mothers to breast feed. Through the protocol of audiovisual health education on breastfeeding inside the obstetric wards, men and other family members can participate and gender equity and breastfeeding are facilitated. As of May 2018, 4277 mothers and family members benefited. Almost all the husbands of the postnatal mothers had watched the breastfeeding education videos. This has increased the understanding of the importance of breastfeeding among the husbands and has enabled them to support babies and mothers.

▲ The postnatal mothers and their husbands watched the breastfeeding education video in the obstetric ward

Women in poor villages – the group with the most eagerness to have breastfeeding knowledge 

One of the criteria of BFHI is the provision of technical training and support to the community breastfeeding support organizations by the maternal facilities. In 2016, Lu Jian-mei, a 48 year old woman of the Yi ethnic group proactively proposed to World Vision to help support the establishment of community women  health group in Shi La Ta village of Wuding. She said, “I had seen the children handwashing activities and other health activities of World Vision in other villages. I also want to have these activities in my village. Therefore, we established the women health group in 2016. Our Village Committee has also the Women's Committee which has its own members, one member in each natural village. They are also women cadre group. Based on this structure, we has established this health group. " After setting up the Health Group, she first organized women's gynecological check-up service for the village women with the support of the Wuding MCH Hospital and World Vision. After that, she led the Health Group to implement health education activities on exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and appropriate complementary feeding. 

▲Lu Jian-mei, director of village Women's Federation encouraged postnatal mother Yan-mei (ethnic MIao)to continue using proper breastfeeding method

Jian-mei shared about the changes that she had seen. She said, “I had seen these women…they were like our older generations. They did not know how to breastfeed, what methods to use. After participating several times in the activities, their hands gesture and their ways of holding the babies have changed. Before participating in the activities, they would start giving food when babies were two or three months old. They gave whatever adults eat to these babies. Now, after learning, they give food to babies when they are six months old.” 

Director of village Women's Federation shared their intention of establishing women health group and the influence

Let breastfeeding knowledge goes down to grassroots, let women participate


On the day of the Nutrition Forum, Lu Jian-mei, village Women's Federation director and her health group members and mothers of children under 2 years old had courageously stood in front of the many participants. They shared about their thirst for knowledge on breastfeeding and infant and young child feeding and expressed their suggestions. This is summarized below: 

  • We do not know which departments that can tell us breastfeeding knowledge. 
  • Please print some health pamphlets for us or let us watch some videos, as we cannot remember just by listening. 
  • What the doctors say is more credible. Village Committee can also teach us. 
  • Hope that our families can give us more care and support. 
  • Hope that the village Women's Federation cooperates with and mobilizes the women's representatives in the villages, to participate in women and children health work. Start from education work on breastfeeding and infant feeding. 

▲ Voices of community women


Dr. Lai Jian-qiang of the Chinese CDC said after listening to the women's voice, “Practice has shown that there are many blind spots in our health education work. There are still many people in remote areas and at grass-roots, that most need these knowledge. For the many poor areas and their community people who most needed these knowledge, we can be surprised of the returns even if we pay a little more effort. Knowledge changes our life course, and health changes our life."

Li Gao-guang, Deputy Director of the Cui Xiong Prefecture MCH Hospital of Yunnan Province also shared, “The voices of the women make me deeply reflect on health communications methods to accelerate the spread of breastfeeding knowledge.”

▲ Li Gao-guang of Cui Xiong Prefecture MCH Hospital feedback to women's voice

Ding Juan of the All China Women's Federation said, “The voices of the women not only show the participation of women and their progress. We can also hear their hopes in the progression of breastfeeding and their expectations on grass-roots organizations such as the village committee. Further steps are needed to strengthen the promotion and leading of the work of breastfeeding and maternal and child health. Gender training needs to be strengthened so that women have the opportunity to bring into play their key roles in the construction of our new rural villages. "


 Ding Juan of the All China Women's Federation shared on the relation between breastfeeding and gender equity


At the end, Representative of the Organizing Committee of Maternal Child health and Nutrition Forum of Wuding Health Bureau read out the recommendation letter. The letter proposes to follow the requirements of the Baby Friendly Hospital Review standards and help the village communities to organize breastfeeding support organizations/groups and provide related training. Health Bureau will coordinate with the county Women's Federation and support the establishment of the village Women's Federation women health volunteer group on breastfeeding. More attention will be given to the women and their children under 2 years old in poor households. The goal is to speed up the universal coverage of breastfeeding and infant feeding knowledge to all villages!


▲ Cao Xing-mei, Deputy Director of Wuding County Health Bureau read out the recommendation letter


See the forum photo album

▲ Group photo of guest speakers, Wuding Health and Family Planning Bureau, Wuding Maternal and Child Health Hospital and community women

▲ Li Hai-miao of Beijing Haidian MCH Hospital talked about the new obstetric practices and relation with breastfeeding


▲Teng Yue of Beijing Haidian MCH Hospital talked about the impact of pregnancy nutrition on child health


▲ Forum participants attentively listened to sharing of speakers


▲ The four guest speakers (Left 1,2, Right 1, 2) had photo with community women


▲ Lai Jian-qiang of the Chinese CDC signed to support breastfeeding

▲ Ding Juan of All China Women's Federation signed to support breastfeeding


▲ Li Hai-miao of Beijing Haidian MCH Hospital signed to support breastfeeding


▲ Edith Chang of Yunnan Representative Office signed to support breastfeeding


▲Woman of Miao ethnic group from the village signed to support breastfeeding

▲ World Breastfeeding Week 2018 – BREASTFEEDING: FOUNDATION OF LIFE