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History Of Mother Support Group (MSG)

The first MSG 'La Leche League' (pronounced la lay-chay meaning 'the milk') was established in U.S.A. in 1956 by Mary White & Marian Tompson. They had met at a church picnic. They decided that there had to be a way to help their friends who wanted to breastfeed their babies but found only frustration & failure when they tried. Four other mothers joined them to establish the organization. La Leche League has grown into a world wide organization with over 3000 groups (32000 leaders) in 66 countries. Some countries have their own independently functioning MSG. These support groups have significantly contributed in reviving the age old motherly art of breastfeeding. Their immense usefulness for protection, promotion & support of breastfeeding has been proved. India also needs to establish a MSG without which our success at Protection, Promotion & Support of breastfeeding would be incomplete.

WHO (World Health Organisation) & UNICEF in 1989 jointly issued a statement which described 'TEN STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL BREASTFEEDING' for maternity services world over. Having realised the importance of mother support groups the tenth step was designed as follows:

'Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.'

The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative based on these 'Ten steps' was launched in 1992. An assessment system has been developed to inspect maternity homes on the basis of these ten steps. The maternity homes passing the assessment are granted ' BABY FRIENDLY HOSPITAL CERTIFICATE '. Many maternity homes in India have already acquired this certificate. To the best of our knowledge the tenth step of mother support was always neglected in India & BFHI certifications were done without fulfillment of this step. Hence we felt that many of the certified maternity homes could not maintain their baby friendly status. In the absence of a system to reassess the certified maternity homes, the tenth step should be made compulsory prior to certification.

We realized that neglect of this step arose out of difficulties in starting MSG in India. We also realised the importance of tenth step to achieve & maintain BFHI status of maternity homes. It was on this background that Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) Maharashtra State Branch' in collaboration with 'Association for Consumer Action on Safety & Health(ACASH)' & with support from UNICEF (Mumbai Office) initiated 'Mother Support Group Project' in 1995. The project was started in North-West Mumbai with 1 MSG Leaders & 1 maternity home. It was planned to start maternity home based MSG with subsequent extension in the community. The project now has 30 certified mother support group leaders & provides service to 33 maternity homes in & around North-West Mumbai. Apart from covering maternity homes MSG Leaders carry out a spectrum of activities in the surrounding community for protection, promotion & support of breastfeeding. Satellite MSG activity has started in Amravati. The process has been initiated in Pune & Dombivali.

The project has succeeded in establishing a MSG in this part of Mumbai. Project has also devised the modus operandi to establish MSG in India. Mothers should be aware of this project so that they can benefit out of it.


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