Letter: Time is running out for hundreds of thousands of Bosnian Muslims

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Sir: The photograph (17 December) of newborn babies in a Sarajevo hospital with a nurse trying to warm them with hot water bottles was distressing. The sensible way to keep babies warm is for them to be in bed with their mothers. The risk of artificial heating is that a newborn gets overheated and becomes dehydrated. Crowding babies together in a central nursery also leads to cross-infection.

The Sarajevo women who are deprived of their babies because of outdated hospital rules are probably not only cold themselves, but miserable without their babies, and find it difficult to get breast-feeding off to a good start. Bottle-feeding is bound to kill babies in a city where there is no electricity, clean water or regular, cheap supplies of dried artificial milk.

This year the World Health Organisation and Unicef launched the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative: mothers and babies should be together day and night. A hospital environment should support breast-feeding and babies should be free to suckle whenever and for as long as they want. This is impossible when mothers and babies are segregated. Many women long to have their babies with them. A baby-friendly hospital must also be a woman-friendly hospital.



Witney, Oxford

17 December