While breastfeeding is common in Timor-Leste, traditional practices mean that the safety and well-being of both mother and child are often put at risk. Traditions include discarding colostrums as 'dirty milk' when it is the essential source of antibodies and protection against infection for the newborn. Other practices include giving honey and water or sugar tea to the baby to prompt feeding, exposing the baby to dirty water and a risk of diarrhea. Too often women also introduce rice porridge into the diet after only a few months, placing strain on the baby's digestive system. Many communities continue to only feed their children rice porridge for the first year of life, depriving the child of important nutrients needed for growth and development.
The Mother Support Group (MSG) members are trained to counsel women in breastfeeding. MSG members receive training to promote the importance of colostrum, exclusive breastfeeding and how to prepare from 6 months to the age of 5. Members take responsibility for assisting a number of households in their communities offering ongoing support to families with babies and young children.