Culture & Society News Slovakia

Slovakia commits to promote breastfeeding in line with WHO and UNICEF guidelines

Bratislava, Slovakia – The Ministry of Health of Slovakia announced it is preparing to renew the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative certificates to help implement practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

Ten steps to successful breastfeeding

Following a meeting last month with representatives of the Ministry of Health and managers and ward chiefs of maternity and neonatal hospitals, Dr Darina Sedlakova, World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in Slovakia, said that Slovak hospitals are well prepared to be awarded the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative certificate.

According to Health Minister Andrea Kalavská, “all health-care providers have the opportunity to obtain a Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative certificate. The prerequisite is to implement the ‘Ten steps to successful breastfeeding’ guidance to increase support for breastfeeding in health facilities that provide maternity and newborn services.”

“Ten steps to successful breastfeeding” includes a series of key clinical practices such as discussing the importance and management of breastfeeding with pregnant women and their families, counselling mothers on the use and risks of feeding bottles, teats and pacifiers, and not providing breastfed newborns with any food or fluids other than breast milk unless medically indicated.

Nearly 200 health workers from maternity and neonatal hospitals throughout the country have been trained to understand and develop skills to apply the ten steps. The Ministry of Health has also prepared a standard procedure in accordance with the latest WHO recommendations.

While Slovakia has improved substantially the health of mothers and newborns in recent years, it is still lagging behind the most advanced European countries in this area.

Breastfeeding: Slovakia still lags behind the most advanced European countries

While Slovakia has improved substantially the health of mothers and newborns in recent years, it is still lagging behind the most advanced European countries in this area. WHO has recognised this initiative as a demonstration of the country’s commitment to further improvement.

“Achieving Baby-friendly Hospital designation is a big commitment for a hospital, but it pays off,” explains Dr Nino Berdzuli, Programme Manager for Maternal and Newborn Health at WHO/Europe. “The process dramatically improves the quality of maternal and newborn care in general, but most importantly it is the best thing for the mother and baby.”

The renewal of the certificates will be part of an assessment of the quality of obstetric and neonatal wards in Slovakia which will be conducted using WHO tools and guidelines.

Launched by WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1991, the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to improve the health of women and newborns and end all preventable deaths, to ensure care for health and well-being, and to expand an enabling environment.

More than 152 countries around the world have implemented the initiative.

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