Make exclusive breastfeeding a national priority, says UNICEF
JAKARTA, 1 August 2012 – On the 20th anniversary of World Breastfeeding Week, which begins today, UNICEF says continued investment in strong national breastfeeding and nutrition policies could prevent the deaths of around 20,000 children under five in Indonesia each year.
“Indonesia has made enormous progress in reducing child mortality, increasing primary school enrolment, and strengthening its economy in recent years – but the fact remains that too many children don’t get to celebrate their fifth birthday,” said UNICEF’s Representative to Indonesia Angela Kearney.
Despite compelling evidence that exclusive breastfeeding prevents diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia, which together account for 40 per cent of under-five deaths in Indonesia, rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life fell in Indonesia from 40 per cent in 2002 to 32 per cent in 2007.
“While the importance of breastfeeding is generally understood amongst mothers, introduction of other foods too early in a child’s life and challenges to women being able to breastfeed continue to harm children’s health,” she added.
“UNICEF applauds steps taken by Indonesia to improve breastfeeding rates, including new health regulations that prohibit promotion of breast milk substitutes in health facilities, and which have formalized the right of women to breastfeed,” said Ms. Kearney. “The Government of Indonesia is also playing a leading role in the global Scaling up Nutrition initiative, which focuses on improving financial allocations, better coordinated policies and strengthened technical expertise to improve child nutrition – efforts which are also being supported by international partners including the European Union and the World Bank.”
“To ensure every mother fully understands how to exclusively breastfeed, and to enable every woman to breastfeed, we must redouble our efforts until all health professionals, community workers and leaders promote, support and protect exclusive breastfeeding and good nutrition in their communities, until every employer provides adequate facilities for mothers to maintain breastfeeding at work, and until the marketing of breast milk substitutes is regulated and enforced in line with international standards.”
In 2008 the renowned health journal The Lancet highlighted the fact that a non-breastfed child is 14 times more likely to die in the first six months than an exclusively breastfed child. Breast milk alone meets a baby's complete nutritional requirements from birth up to 6 months of life, and provides essential antibodies to protect the child from disease.
Poor nutrition has an impact not only on the health of a child but also its mental development. This in turn has a long-term impact on a child’s learning potential and productivity in adulthood.
At the same time, experts point to working mothers who breastfeed being less likely to take time off from work to care for sick children, increased productivity levels in the workplace when breastfeeding facilities are provided, and even reduced company health costs when employees can breastfeed their infants.