A healthy start in life is the most precious gift one can make to a newborn. A baby needs the physical closeness and warmth of its mother as much as it needs optimum nourishment. As a global goal for optimal maternal and child health and nutrition, all women should be enabled to practice exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and to continue to breastfeed while providing appropriate complementary foods for up to two years of age or beyond. This child-feeding ideal could be achieved by creating an appropriate environment of awareness and support for the mother and family.
Breastfeeding provides the ideal nutrition for infants; contributes to infants’ growth and development; contributes to women’s health; provides social and economic benefits for the family and nation and is nature’s gift of nurturing our young. Therefore, we envision the following:
The breastfeeding challenges
- A world where every mother, child and family can enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding in a prevalent breastfeeding-friendly culture with no restriction, towards a happier and healthier society.
- An environment that will enable mothers, families and other caregivers in all circumstances to make, and implement, informed choices about optimal feeding practices for infants and young children.
- To improve, through breastfeeding, the nutritional status, growth and development, and health and thus the survival of infant and young children.
Today, very few people will deny that breastfeeding fulfills both physical and emotional need of infant. Breastfeeding from theory to practice, however, is not always an easy step. There are at least five challenges for breastfeeding:
1. Social factors
2. Healthcare and Infant Feeding Practices
- Expanding urbanisation results in more families depending on women’s contribution to family income. Women in formal or informal employment often lack time and support to breastfeed, such as few or no maternity benefits
- In times of uncertainties such as during emergencies, often characterized by population displacement, food security and armed conflict, the difficulties that families face in properly feeding and caring for their children are intensifies, compromising the well-being of infants and young children
- Traditional family and community support structures are being eroded
3. Advertising and promotion
- Breastfeeding can save the lives of over 1.5 million babies who die every year from diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. Inappropriate infant feeding practices and their consequences are major obstacles to achieving infants’ highest standard of health
- inhumane health care practices which contradict the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative and Human Neonatal Care Initiative compromise both maternal and child health and pose obstacles to successful breastfeeding
- Many health care facilities have yet to recognise breastfeeding as an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers and infants
- Unethical marketing and uncontrolled distribution of breastmilk substitutes contradicts the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent WHA resolutions
- Manufacturers and distributors of breastmilk substitutes are not meeting applicable Codex Alimentarious standards
5. Emerging threats and problems
- Unethical marketing of breastmilk substitutes and misleading commercial promotions put infants health at stake and create family’s dependency on commercial baby foods
- Governments, groups and agencies are not implementing or adhering to the Code and are collaborating with breastmilk substitute companies that violate the Code
- Emerging circumstances that pose unique challenges to breastfeeding, such as the risk of transmission of HIV and/or environmental contaminants to infants through breastfeeding, even among unaffected families