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Taking Action to Ensure Breastfeeding Support for Mothers from all Parts of Society (Global Initiative for Mother Support)

La Leche League 18th International Conference
Strength through Diversity - Creating One Breastfeeding World
San Francisco, California, USA
July 3-6, 2003

Sunday, July 6 - Session #306
Global Issues - Taking Action to Ensure Breastfeeding Support for Mothers from all Parts of Society (Global Initiative for Mother Support)

Presenters: Rebecca Magalhães and Nair Carrasco
Facilitators: Dr. Prashant Gangal and Elaine Dawson

Rebecca Magalhães presented background information on the Global Initiative for Mother Support (GIMS), a primary activity of the WABA Mother Support Task Force. GIMS aims to create the appropriate environment of awareness and support for a mother to initiate and sustain breastfeeding. As defined by GIMS, mother support is any support provided to mothers for the purpose of improving breastfeeding practices for both mother and baby. The support needed varies from woman to woman but generally includes encouragement, accurate and timely information, humane care during childbirth, advice, reassurance, affirmation, hands-on assistance, and practical tips.

Every woman irrespective of her circumstance of residence will have lay, professional and social support for breastfeeding and will receive the necessary information, education and encouragement enabling her to have the breastfeeding experience she and her child want.

To put optimal outcomes for the mother and her baby at the core of steps taken in providing breastfeeding information, education, support and care.

Activities that took place in 2002:

a) Asia Mother Support Conference, April 21 - 23, 2002; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Key outcomes:

  • List of recommendations that touched on the many facets of mother support from the family and community context to health and legal contexts.
  • Personal and organizational commitments that ranged from strengthening existing activities to organizing new ones such as promotion of involvement of men and boys in maternal support and to form Mother Support Groups with traditional old people, family members, housemaids, NGOs and others.
  • The launching of a new GIMS regional network for Asia-Pacific.
  • A wider perspective on mother support that recognizes:
    - that women need support throughout their reproductive cycle;
    - that mother support is not limited to just mother-to-mother support;
    - that every sector of the community has a clear role and responsibility to play in supporting mothers; and
    - that useful traditional practices which support mothers should continue to be highlighted and strengthened, such as special foods, healing remedies, massage techniques, and holistic treatments of the mother and baby; and that new ones might be developed where there is a need.

b) Latin American Conference on the Global Initiative for Mother Support (GIMS) August 25-31, 2002; Lima, Peru


  • Gain better support for all mothers who return to work when breastfeeding, from sectors that are linked to the mother and child
  • Establish a very tight link between community support groups and the hospital
  • Important to involve the father, his role is essential
  • It is important to promote social responsibility, not only through politics and legislation, but also through the establishment of local community procedures, which should encompass:
  • Monitoring of compliance with legal policies and provisions
  • Monitoring of the government's progress in meeting its obligations
  • Looking at the role of the media and attempting to point them toward the right messaging to mothers

c) GIMS Workshops at the WABA Global Forum II, September 23 - 27, 2002; Arusha, Tanzania

Ideas for Action:

  • Promote capacity building on support for mothers at all levels
  • Create an awareness of the value of the existing support and build on it
  • Disseminate the need that mothers have for support during the process of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding
  • Empower the mother, through different strategies, for her to know that she has the right to be supported during her pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding
  • Develop an assessment of the different programs, cultures, projects that exist on mother support, and learn from their successes.

If you would like more information on the Initiative, please contact Rebecca Magalhães at Rmagalhaes at

Following are the actions presented during the session:

A. Media Project
Facilitated by Elaine Dawson

Goal: Promote the value of mother support through a short video which can be shown at doctor's offices, hospitals, clinics, schools, etc. Important to involve the youth, media projects, and universities

Theme: Support available to mothers and the effect it has on bringing about a successful breastfeeding experience

Content: The images and text used need to explain what is meant by mother support. Important to show how a mother can be supported during pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding. Include testimonies of ordinary and special situations to which mothers can relate.

Each community has specific topics and customs they might want to touch on. It is important for the video to be sensitive to the local culture. The concept of support is universal, however it is important to modify it to include the local customs and traditions.

Funding: If collaborate with a school or university, they can see it as a tool to educate their students and might be willing to cover all the expenses.

Future: Post the video on the internet- WABA, LLLI; distribute it on a CD; broadcast on television, cable

B. Encouraging Support for Mothers among Health Workers
Facilitated by Dr. Prashant Gangal

In order to create an environment of support, it is essential to work on all areas of society. This action was created to reach out to a very important sector -- health workers.

The group formulated a letter to send out to health workers. Every month for 12 months they will receive the letter together with a pamphlet (see list of pamphlets below). At the end of the 12 months a questionnaire will be sent out to evaluate the effect of this program and to know if the health workers would like to continue in the program.


Dear Dr. _______,

In appreciation of your commitment to the care and support of the mothers and children in your communities, we are sending you "Name of article(s)" which emphasizes the positive influence you have on parenting practices.

This is the first in a series of articles that will keep you in the forefront of internationally recognized health care practices in Maternal and Child Health.

To become more involved, contact: (Name, Phone number, Email)




12 Basic Information Pamphlets to Health Workers
(each pamphlet will be single-sided, simple language, with graphs and photos)

1. Basic Recommendations on Breastfeeding and Complementary Feeding
2. Graph (pi-diagram) of associations between malnutrition and mortality and local situations
3. Common problems in early days
4. Inadequate milk transfer
5. Risks of not breastfeeding
6. Ten steps to successful breastfeeding
7. Working mothers / mothers with problems
8. Teen pregnancies
9. Health and support requirements for the mother
10. Importance of health workers in supporting mothers
11. Complementary feeding and exclusive breastfeeding
12. Information on support groups in the area

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