Mainstreaming nutrition into maternal and child health programmes: scaling up of exclusive breastfeeding.Matern Child Nutr 2008; 4 Suppl 1:5-23MC
Interventions to promote exclusive breastfeeding have been estimated to have the potential to prevent 13% of all under-5 deaths in developing countries and are the single most important preventive intervention against child mortality. According to World Health Organization and United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF), only 39% infants are exclusively breastfed for less than 4 months. This review examines programme efforts to scale up exclusive breastfeeding in different countries and draws lesson for successful scale-up. Opportunities and challenges in scaling up of exclusive breastfeeding into Maternal and Child Health programmes are identified. The key processes required for exclusive breastfeeding scale-up are: (1) an evidence-based policy and science-driven technical guidelines; and (2) an implementation strategy and plan for achieving high exclusive breastfeeding rates in all strata of society, on a sustainable basis. Factors related to success include political will, strong advocacy, enabling policies, well-defined short- and long-term programme strategy, sustained financial support, clear definition of roles of multiple stakeholders and emphasis on delivery at the community level. Effective use of antenatal, birth and post-natal contacts at homes and through community mobilization efforts is emphasized. Formative research to ensure appropriate intervention design and delivery is critical particularly in areas with high HIV prevalence. Strong communication strategy and support, quality trainers and training contributed significantly to programme success. Monitoring and evaluation with feedback systems that allow for periodic programme corrections and continued innovation are central to very high coverage. Legal framework must make it possible for mothers to exclusively breastfeed for at least 4 months. Sustained programme efforts are critical to achieve high coverage and this requires strong national- and state-level leadership.