Sunday, 13 March 2016 21:52

Making breastfeeding a priority in society

Very few women breastfeed in Cyprus Very few women breastfeed in Cyprus

In Cyprus, the number of mothers exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of their child’s life remains relatively low, even within 48 hours after delivery.

Caesarean rates, on the other hand, are among the highest in Europe. According to an article in the European Journal of Public Health by Clinical Dietitian-Nutritionist Mary Economou, only one in three Cypriot mothers still breastfeeds four months after delivery.

Data available for the island is currently restricted to the first 48 hours in public hospitals. The report states that as many as three-quarters of all births are performed in the private sector.
Additionally, Cyprus’ relatively short maternity leave of 18 weeks does not encourage the practice of prolonged breastfeeding.

Six months
Both UNICEF and the WHO recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life and then introducing solid foods while continuing breast feeding until two years.

Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, and is a secure way of feeding and safe for the environment.

The World Health Organisation also states that, “While breastfeeding is a natural act, it is also a learned behaviour. An extensive body of research has demonstrated that mothers and other caregivers require active support for establishing and sustaining appropriate breastfeeding practices”.

Help lines and house visits island-wide
The need for support is a fact that Maria Zacharatou can confirm. As one of the island’s midwives and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLCs), she runs the non-profit MZ PanCyprian Support Group, which also has a free 24-hr breastfeeding helpline (tel: 7000-4342) and does island-wide house visits.

The other six IBCLCs in Cyprus are paediatricians in private practices. The two other bodies that promote and support breastfeeding are the government’s Breastfeeding Committee and the Nicosia-based Cyprus Breastfeeding Association (tel: 8000-6262).

Centre in Limassol
Young mothers in the Limassol area also have Zacharatou’s breastfeeding centre in Limassol’s Ayios Silas district which opened in 2014. At the centre, Zacharatou provides prenatal classes for pregnant women and training courses for professionals such as nurse midwives in maternity wards.

The extremely dynamic and very cheerful 68-year-old health practitioner holds a Diploma of Midwifery from the Central Middlesex Hospital, UK, and is a certified nurse and health visitor. She has worked in Canada and Greece, at Limassol’s Ygia clinic and as a head midwife in a private gynaecological clinic, and was a state school health visitor for 10 years.

No plans to retire
Zacharatou may be seen as stern and outspoken but most of all she is a kind lady. Her interview with the Cyprus Weekly was interrupted by several telephone requests for help, but also ‘good-news phone calls’ from new mothers and women passing by, who were excited to see the energetic woman who had helped them when they delivered their babies.

She has had a fulfilling career and is in no way thinking of retiring. “Retire?” she exclaims, “I cannot! All these women out there need me!”

Helping poor families
On March 12, the Pancyprian Breastfeeding Support Group is celebrating International Women’s Day 2016 with an event at Ayioss Fylaxeos’ 19th Primary School at 10am. At the event, new (ideally wrapped) items will be collected for children aged 0-10 years, to be given to families in need as special presents to celebrate womanhood.

More information about supporting the event and about the work of the Limassol Breastfeeding Centre and the Pancyprian Support Group can be found via or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Article as published in The Cyprus Weekly of March 4, 2016 


Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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