Five Things to Know About Breast-Feeding Around the World

Most pediatric health experts agree that when it comes to a newborn’s development, breast is best. Studies have shown far-reaching benefits from breast-feeding. Breast milk boosts the infant immune system and offers protection from diseases and pathogens. Some work found a link between breast-feeding and increased IQ during the early months of development. Breast-feeding also promote a strong bond between mother and child.

Despite these widely documented benefits, no country in the world fully meets recommended standards for breast-feeding, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) published for World Breastfeeding Week.

The 2017 Global Breastfeeding Scorecard tracked breast-feeding rates in 194 nations. Only 40 percent of children younger than six months are breast-fed exclusively (given nothing but breast milk) in these regions, the evaluation showed. Just 23 countries have exclusive breast-feeding rates above 60 percent. The lack of investment in breast-feeding education and awareness in China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria has resulted in 236,000 child deaths each year, and and a loss of $119 billion.

But experts say the problem could be easily fixed. It would cost roughly $4.70 per newborn to increase the global rate of exclusive breast-feeding among children under six months to 50 per cent by 2025.

The report delivered many insights about the obstacles stopping mother's milk from becoming a more common source of infant nourishment. Here are five of them:

  1. Roughly 44 percent of newborns worldwide are put to the breast within the first hour after birth. Global health officials would like to increase that figure to 77 percent.

  2. The main reason why new mothers don’t breast-feed is because of employment. Just over 10 percent of countries in the report currently provide maternity leave that will allow at least 18 weeks off and guarantees continuation of earnings.

  3. The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi ) was launched in 2004 to help assist countries needing to evaluate policies and programs regarding breast-feeding practices. However, only 77 countries have completed an assessment of these practices using the WBTi tools in the past five years.

  4. The fight for breast-feeding has also meant a war on formula. In the 1980s, global health officials recognized that advertisements and other marketing for infant formula deterred women from feeding their children with their own milk. The World Health Assembly adopted an International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes in 1981. Unfortunately, only 39 of the 194 countries in the report enacted to the code, which means companies continue to make huge profits from formula at the expense of public health.

  5. Many countries aren’t keeping track of whether new moms are breast-feeding and how they’re doing. Less than half (40 percent) of countries have actually surveyed the success of the breast-feeding programs in the last five years.

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