Strengthening breastfeeding practices through community-based training in the Republic of Moldova

WHO/Anatol Tomsa

To support the strengthening of breastfeeding practices in the Republic of Moldova, WHO organized community-based training sessions on the left bank of the Nistru River on 4–6 October 2017. Pregnant women, mothers and medical staff from maternities in the cities of Bender, Camenca, Dubasari, Grigoriopol, Rybnita, Slobozeia and Tiraspol took part in the trainings.

This was the first in a series of events organized by the WHO Country Office in partnership with a team of certified breastfeeding consultants from the Mamica Alapteaza initiative group. It aimed to encourage the practice of exclusive breastfeeding by disseminating and reinforcing WHO recommendations and guidelines at the community level.

A team of specialists provided practical classes on breastfeeding, infant health and maternal health with special focus on:

  • techniques for managing lactostasis, breast engorgement and milk pumping;
  • components of breast milk and how to naturally increase quantity;
  • healthy nutrition for mothers during the breastfeeding period; and
  • specific guidance for introducing complementary feeding.

Feedback on the training was overwhelmingly positive, and participants highlighted the need to continue this initiative. One of the participants, a mother of 2 children, explained that, “unfortunately, until now I had received only very fragmented information about breastfeeding, lactation, newborn health, etc., and yet facilitation of breastfeeding and strengthening of the early mother–infant bond, I think, is the most important period after delivery. I’m therefore very happy to have had the opportunity to learn from such a supportive and talented team of counsellors!”

Following this initiative, 2 key steps will contribute to further strengthening exclusive breastfeeding in the country: the provision of dedicated training for local breastfeeding consultants, and the reintroduction of community-based “schools for new parents”. Running these schools used to be common practice in the Republic of Moldova.

The complex nature of maternal and newborn health requires an integrated approach that maximizes the benefits of a broad range of activities, including strengthening exclusive breastfeeding. Support for breastfeeding at the community level is crucial. The successful scaling up of exclusive breastfeeding is possible only with an adequate emphasis on community-based support.

Counselling of mothers during pregnancy, immediately after childbirth and during the postpartum period has significant positive effects on rates of exclusive breastfeeding. One of the global targets of the Sustainable Development Goals is to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months to at least 50% by 2025.

This activity was part of an initiative financially supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation through the Multi-Partner Trust Fund. The WHO Country Office is coordinating this initiative, as well as activities with 2 main pillars: perinatal health and immunization. The initiative runs from 2016 to 2019 and covers activities on both banks of the Dniester River. WHO support for this initiative is envisioned in the biennial collaborative agreement for 2016–2017 between the Moldovan Ministry of Health and WHO/Europe.