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Proper feeding vital to child heath

© UNICEF/BANA2009-00432/Noorani
A Community Nutrition Worker shows a group of women the proper way to breastfeed at a nutrition centre in Sunamganj district, Bangladesh.

By Jeannette Francis

August 2011, Bangladesh : Since it began 20 years ago, World Breastfeeding Week has come to be celebrated in 170 countries worldwide. Its aim is to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding to the growth of a healthy child.

This year’s slogan - ‘Talk to Me’ - emphasises the key role communication plays in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding. The exchange of ideas and an open flow of interaction between sectors, health workers and patients are key to insuring that more and more women are made aware of how to breastfeed properly to ensure the best possible health outcome for their child.   

Recommendations
Breast milk contains antibodies, which help enhance a newborn’s defense against diseases.  It is recommended by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation that children be initiated to the breast within one hour of birth and exclusively breastfed for the first six months. This can prevent the deaths of 1.4 million under five children in the developing world by reducing deaths from respiratory infection, diarrhea and other infectious diseases.
In order to continue growing properly, it is recommended that infants start eating age appropriate semi-solid and solid food from six months to 23 months of age in addition to being breastfed. An infant or young child should eat foods rich in nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains and animal protein. 

The use of formula as a replacement for breast milk is not recommended because it lessens the bond formed between mother and child during the act of breastfeeding and does not contain the same anti-bodies, enzymes and hormones necessary for healthy child growth. It also carries the risk of contamination.

© UNICEF/BANA2009-00538/Noorani
Breastfeeding helps strengthen the bond between mother and child, something that formula cannot do.

Breastfeeding in Bangladesh
The availability of food rich in energy and vitamins-minerals in a country like Bangladesh, where almost half the country’s children live beneath the poverty line, is a challenge. 

Under-nutrition is a key issue and almost half of children aged five suffer from poor nutrition. 43 per cent are stunted or too short for their age, 41 per cent are underweight and almost half are anaemic.

While the rate of breastfeeding is high, the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding in children under six months is only 43 per cent and has not shown significant improvement over the last decade. The median duration of exclusive breastfeeding is less than two months and available complementary foods often offer less than the daily required nutritional intake for infants.

It is therefore vital that women in Bangladesh are not only made aware of the importance of breastfeeding but taught the proper ways in which to do it.

Supporting mothers and children
UNICEF works on a local, community and national level to ensure women are given the appropriate support, advice and nutritional assistance need to ensure healthy infant and child feeding practices.

Through its joint Maternal and Neonatal Health initiative, UNICEF supports the training of health volunteers who look after pregnant mothers in their communities. UNICEF also supports nationwide immunisations for both mother and child to ensure breastfed children are not lacking in key vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin A.

Given the right support any women can breastfeed in any socioeconomic condition can produce milk for breast feeding, thus giving her child the right and opportunity to lead a healthier life.

 

 

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