Breastfeeding: two initiatives to improve health professionals’ knowledge
Breast milk is the recommended food in the first six months of a human's life. It is considered a natural form of feeding, essential for the health of babies, with positive long-term impacts on both the mother's and children's health. According to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), only 43% of babies are exclusively breastfed in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
Those statistics are challenging to public health and the reality of many mothers who are not able to breastfeed their babies exclusively for a minimum of six months. Economic and labour situations, as well as social or emotional contexts, are in the background of such phenomenon. Because of the importance of the topic and to help health professionals to promote and support parents in breastfeeding, there are two relevant initiatives printed below that take care of the theme in LAC.
Global Network of Human Milk Banks
The first one is the Global Network of Human Milk Banks (rBLH). It is a network coordinated by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz). Mothers and families, health units, health professionals, students and researchers can participate in the network.
It integrates more than 20 countries from Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula and Portuguese-speaking African countries (CPLP), and constitutes an international public policy for the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding. In Brazil alone, there are more than 230 milk banks linked to the rBLH.
According to rBLH’s coordinator, Danielle Silva, Brazil has a model in human milk bank actions, which can help parents during breastfeeding. “Today we have a history with Fiocruz, the Ministry of Health (of Brazil) and the Brazilian agency for international cooperation, where these good practices have already been recognised”, explains Silva.
Congress of human milk banks of the CPLP in November 2023
Danielle announces that next November, rBLH will host the first congress of human milk banks of the CPLP, with a hybrid model, to be held in Luanda with online broadcast. “The topic is food and nutrition security for newborns at risk” she explains. If any professional feels interested in participating in the congress, they should contact rBLH by mail firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
The network also has an online training course in human milk banks, available in Portuguese and Spanish for rBLH cooperating countries. “If a health professional wants to take the training, the person must contact the instance in the cooperating country or the Brazilian agency for international cooperation” tells Silva. Check the list of cooperating countries of rBLH here.
Fiocruz Certification Program for Human Milk Banks
According to Daniele, rBLH just launched the Fiocruz Certification Program for Human Milk Banks. his program aims to assess the level of compliance of Human Milk Banks to ensure quality of their actions. The program has six main axes: human resources certification; information certification; equipment certification; facility certification; process certification; and product certification. Institutions that are interested in the certification can contact rBLH by e-mail email@example.com to ask about the program.
LactaHub by The Global Health Network
The second initiative is LactaHub, a hub within The Global Health Network (TGHN) that aims to connect people working in the field of breastfeeding and breast milk with evidence-based knowledge that supports their daily work.
According to LactaHub's coordinator, Kay Kutschkau, the hub serves as an innovative online community aiming to strengthen breastfeeding practices with a special focus on low-resource settings and expansion to the global south. “By offering a comprehensive and open-accessplatform for healthcare practitioners, policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders, LactaHub intends to advance the understanding of breastfeeding and breastfeeding practices with evidence-based knowledge and resources”, says Kutschkau.
Resources from and for different stakeholders
LactaHub offers a variety of resources that address breastfeeding from – and for – different stakeholder perspectives. “For instance, the comprehensive reference book titled Breastfeeding and Breast Milk – Examining Biochemistry's Impact, provides a thorough, scientifically rigorous overview of crucial breastfeeding and breast milk topics” explains the coordinator. The book has been authored by experts from diverse fields, including medicine, sociology, political science, culture, and economics, and it covers everything from how breastfeeding and breast milk influence children's health and development to policy scale-up at the national level. You can find the book “Breastfeeding and Breast Milk – Examining Biochemistry’s Impact” and other resources here.
Training educational videos
Another resource available on LactaHub that could be helpful for enabling working parents to continue breastfeeding is the PROVIDE Training Compendium. It aligns with the World Breastfeeding Week 2023 theme, which wasLet’s make breastfeeding at work, work. “While focused on bringing breast milk to preterm or crucially ill infants in the NICU, PROVIDE also offers how-to videos and information sheets that are designed especially for parents. Several cover breastfeeding and pumping fundamentals and would be applicable for working families” highlights Kay Kutschkau. According to him, PROVIDE is organized into seven distinct categories offering 34 educational videos and 23 information sheets in both English and Spanish. Click here to find more about PROVIDE on LactaHub.
Ethical principles for health professionals
Another resource on the platform is the Evolving Ethical Framework Informing Breastfeeding Research and Interventions (EFBRI), which is a compilation of ethical principles to guide biomedical research in breastfeeding and lactation. “Built on established international standards, it was created to streamline research processes for people working with breastfeeding mothers and children”, says Kutschkau. He explains that the second module, focused on interventions, is expected to be launched soon. With EFBRI, researchers and other stakeholders can align their work to universal research ethics standards – confidently and efficiently. Look to EFBRI in LactaHub here.
LactaWebinar in November 2023
LactaHub plans to host a LactaWebinar on preterm babies with a special focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, potentially taking place in November 2023. They also have available a LactaNewsletter, to be aware of upcoming events and new resources added to the platform. Make sure you don’t miss any updates by registering as a member of LactaHub community.
Text by Luisa Picanço