Dar es Salaam, June 02, 2023:
Optimal breastfeeding practices can save the lives of over 800,000 children under five (5) years annually and prevent 20,000 deaths due to cancer. In Tanzania, breastfeeding rates remain below the recommended global targets, with only 27% of babies aged 4 to 5 months still exclusively breastfeeding (EBF).
At the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam, the lactation journey started in 2015 by celebrating world breastfeeding week and implementing the 10 steps. It was followed by the training of the first International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in the country. In 2017, we started health education and awareness through the media. In 2019, we put together a team of doctors, nurses, and nutritionists to jointly develop a formal lactation program to oversee and implement various strategies and activities.
The program is led by Dr. Mariam Noorani – Paediatrician and International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and Idda Katigula – Nutritionist and certified lactation specialist.
The Aga Khan Hospital Lactation programme aims to improve breastfeeding rates in the population through education, research, policy change, capacity building and strategic partnerships.
The specific objectives are:
- To train health workers and equip them with knowledge and skills to support, promote and protect breastfeeding.
- To engage with partners in Government and NGOs to advocate for breastfeeding and overcome related challenges.
- To educate communities and raise awareness of breastfeeding and its important health benefits.
- Education and training: Healthcare workers of various cadres have received training in breastfeeding related to their scope of practice. These include maternity ward nurses, theatre nurses, doctors from paediatrics and obstetrics departments.
- Clinical Service: We offer outpatient lactation clinics and provide inpatient lactation support to mother’s post-partum.
- Health education: we have started antenatal education classes and support groups for women in their last trimester at high risk for breastfeeding difficulties. The group is called “MWANZO BORA” and aims to get a good start to breastfeeding.
- Research and scientific presentations: We have embarked on clinical research projects undertaken by paediatric master’s students. The completed projects looked at barriers to early initiation of breastfeeding in a hospital setting and factors associated with EBF among mothers in formal employment. During the Paediatric Association of Tanzania (PAT) annual scientific conference in 2022, Dr. Mariam Noorani presented : “Breastfeeding and Non-communicable diseases: what is the evidence?”
Outcomes: the program has had many positive effects, including improving rates of early initiation of breastfeeding and EBF from birth to hospital discharge. Rates of EBF were 52% prior to the start of the program and are currently at 78%.