Breastfeeding is the cheapest and most effective life-saver inhistory
NEW YORK, 1 August 2013
During World Breastfeeding Week starting today, UNICEF is focusing
on breastfeeding as the most effective and inexpensive way of saving a child‟s life.
But with less thanhalf of all children under six months benefitting from exclusive breastfeeding, strong leadership inpromoting the practice is essential.
There is no other single health intervention that has such a high impact for babies and mothers asbreastfeeding and which
costs so little for governments,”
said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director GeetaRao Gupta.
Breastfeeding is a
baby‟s „first immunization‟ and the most effective and inexpensive life
Children who are exclusively breastfed are 14 times more likely to survive the first six months of lifethan non-breastfed children. Starting breastfeeding in the first day after birth can reduce the risk of new-born death by up to 45 per cent.
Breastfeeding also supports a child‟s ability to learn and helps prevent obesity and chronic diseases
later in life. Recent studies in the United States and United Kingdom point to large health care savingsresulting from breastfeeding, given that breastfed children fall ill much less often than non-breastfedchildren.Apart from the benefits to the baby, mothers who breastfeed exclusively are less likely to becomepregnant in the first six months following delivery, recover faster from giving birth, and return to theirpre-pregnancy weight sooner. Evidence shows that they experience less post-partum depression andalso have a lower risk of ovarian and breast cancers later in life.Despite these well documented benefits of breastfeeding worldwide, only 39 per cent of children agedless than six months were exclusively breastfed in 2012. This global figure has improved very little forthe past several decades, due in part to large countries where the breastfeeding rate is low, and to thegeneral lack of a supportive environment for breastfeeding mothers.However, countries with supportive policies and comprehensive programmes that reach allcommunities have been able to increase their breastfeeding rates significantly.China, which recently attracted media attention because its strong consumer demand for baby formulacaused shortages in other countries, has an exclusive breastfeeding rate of only 28 per cent.In a bid to boost such low rates in
the world‟s most populous country
, UNICEF and the National Centre
for Women‟s and Children‟s Health in May launched
campaign to locate, register,certify and publicize breastfeeding rooms in order to raise awareness and support for breastfeeding.The campaign has established a web portal (unicef.cn/10m2) where any organization can registerbreastfeeding rooms for staff, patrons or customers that adhere to simple international standards. Amobile phone application to map the locations of all 10m
of Love facilities is under developmentCambodia has had notable success in raising exclusive breastfeeding rates from 11.7 per cent of infants less than six months in 2000 to a very high 74 per cent in 2010. Togo and Zambia alsoincreased the rates from 10 and 20 per cent respectively in the late 1990s to over 60 per cent by2000.
At the other end of the scale, Tunisia‟s
exclusive breastfeeding rate fell dramatically from 46.5 per centin 2000 to only 6.2 per cent by the end of the decade.