Malaysian Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program in Malaysia

Mother-to-Mother Support has been identified as one of the key factors contributing to the success rate of

prolonged breastfeeding, or at least exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months. In recent years, more and more evidence has arisen on the effectiveness and impact of peer counseling support. In 2003, D’Souza and Garcia found that:

– peer support as a stand-alone intervention is very likely to increase breastfeeding initiation rates among lowincome women who express the wish to breastfeed;

– support from a mother experienced in breastfeeding, complemented by professional services, is very likely to increase the duration of breastfeeding; and

– peer volunteers are particularly beneficial in mediating between low income mothers and healthcare professionals.

Latest statistics reveal that the Malaysian Exclusive Breastfeeding rate at 4 months is 19%, while at 6 months is only 14.5% (Salim et al, 2006), and this is far below the global rate, which is about 38% EBF at 6months (Moccia P, 2008). If we focus on the local trend alone, exclusive breastfeeding rates over the past ten years have

plummeted, from 29% at 4 months (1996), despite huge efforts to promote the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and having higher initiation rates.

OBJECTIVES & GOALS

This project is focused on building capacity of breastfeeding counselors in Malaysia in order to sustain exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years and beyond. This project will go beyond the hospital setting, as it extends the circle of breastfeeding support,

involving training of peer counselors among mothers and other non-medical personnel. SusuIbu.com has been empowered by UNICEF to carry out a project called Malaysian Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program (MalaysianBFPC.Org). UNICEF is currently funding the initial program that comprises of

Train the Trainers, running the peer counselor training in 5 regions and monitoring the overall project until the end of this year. In this project, we have successfully trained 19 participants, who are now functioning as Peer Counselor Program Administrators (PCPA) and Working Committee of this program. We are now in the midst of

running a nationwide training program for Peer Counselors, comprising of existing breastfeeding support groups or mother-to-mother support individuals, who will benefit tremendously from the formal skills obtained from the training. The training program for potential peer counselors will be held in 5 regions (North, East, West, South,

and East Malaysia).

CURRENT SCENARIO IN MALAYSIA

In Malaysia there has been an on-going effort to create a more effective Mother-to-Mother Support Group framework among the local mothers here but a more systematic and coordinated effort is needed to strengthen it. The Malaysian Ministry of Health is most supportive of breastfeeding but its focus has largely been around hospital practices rather than support in the communities. All government hospitals in Malaysia are accredited as Baby-Friendly Hospitals and are continuously assessed as per requirements of the UNICEF/WHO Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Since this initiative was introduced in 1993, 121 hospitals have been accredited as Baby-Friendly Hospitals (2004).

However, at a recent World Breastfeeding Week event at the Malaysian National Lactation Centre, it was revealed that one of the major causes of Baby-Friendly Hospitals failing their reassessment is Step 10, “Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.” . In the current practice, breastfeeding support groups would be formed by hospital nurses, rather than the community. This adds strain to the workload of the healthcare professional, without adequately meeting the needs of mother support. Furthermore, mothers are normally discharged from hospitals only 1 or 2 days after delivery. Thus, not much support activities can be done within the hospital’s set up.

According to the Project Manager, Puan Nor Kamariah Mohamad Alwi, “Many mothers are interested to participate in these activities and are willing to support each other. However, there has been inadequate training done for this group of mothers who aspire to become Peer Supporters/Counselors. In the current situation, these mothers have had to be included in hospital’s lactation management training which is largely meant for the hospital set-up and staff. It has been noted then that the hospital training given may not be relevant to the mother-to-mother support needs. For instance, participants who underwent this training did not receive any proper guidelines on how to operate as peer counselors yet Mother Support particularly peer counseling has shown to be a most effective intervention in supporting breastfeeding. Furthermore, the peer counselors’ activities are not being monitored by any party.”

Nationwide Training Program Schedule 2010:

Region Dates Status

North –> 5th, 6th & 7th March —  Completed

West –>  2nd, 3rd & 4th April —  Completed

East –> 30th, 1st & 2nd May

Sabah & Sarawak  –> 5th, 6th & 7th June

South –> 2nd, 3rd & 4th July

 

For those interested to be part of the program, you may write in to admin@malaysianbfpc.org. For more

information regarding the program, please visit www.malaysianbfpc.org

 

For the actual Press release, Click here!!

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