WHO: Only 40% of children under six months breastfed exclusively

The study released by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that in five of the world’s largest emerging economies — China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria — the lack of investment in breastfeeding results in an estimated 236,000 child deaths per year

WHO: Only 40% of children under six months breastfed exclusively

  • The Global Breastfeeding scoreboard evaluated 194 countries and found that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are breastfed exclusively (given nothing but breastmilk).
  • Evidence explains that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for the child as well as the healing mother.
  • It showed that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers.
  • It is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants.
  • Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.

“Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “Breastmilk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive.”

The scorecard was released at the start of World Breastfeeding Week alongside a new analysis demonstrating that an annual investment of only US $ 4.70 per newborn is required to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children less than six months of age to 50 per cent by 2025.

“Breastfeeding is one of the most effective and cost effective investments nations can make in the health of their youngest members and the future health of their economies and societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “By failing to invest in breastfeeding, we are failing mothers and their babies, and paying a double price: in lost lives and in lost opportunity.”

Nurturing the Health and Wealth of Nations: The Investment Case for Breastfeeding, suggests that meeting this target could save the lives of 520,000 children under the age of five and potentially generate US $ 300 billion in economic gains over 10 years, as a result of reduced illness and healthcare costs and increased productivity.

Dr Niranjan Chavan, Professor, Gynaecology Department at LTMG (Sion) Hospital said, “New mothers lack awareness regarding breastfeeding. In the 7th or 8th months, pregnant ladies should be trained regarding breastfeeding. After a normal delivery, moms should have a healthy diet rich in proteins and carbohydrates.”

He added, “Exclusive breastfeeding has to be done immediately after half an hour post-delivery. Proteins are important to generate milk.  Basically, in India, we have the breastfeeding week from August 1st to 7th. But, still there is no awareness. So, we need to promote breastfeeding and train mothers.”

Dr Swati Bhide, a lactation consultant said, “Right from the pregnancy itself, the mothers should be guided regarding the breast feeding. In many maternity homes, there are no antenatal classes conducted. Unfortunately, there is no knowledge about breast feeding in any curriculum. It is necessary to appoint a lactation consultant for the maternity homes, every hospital should organise a lactation consultant visit, antenatal classes should be conducted and the mothers should be counselled till they are admitted in the hospital.”

She added, “Though, the government has organised many programmes, there is still no awareness regarding the same. Also, there are many myths related to the breast feeding. So, the mothers should be encouraged for the same.”

The investment case shows that in five of the world’s largest emerging economies — China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria — the lack of investment in breastfeeding results in an estimated 236,000 child deaths per year.