Breastfeeding and complementary feeding can save close to 2 million lives yearly
KUALA LUMPUR, 29 July 2005 – As part of World Breastfeeding Week which begins on 1 August, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reminds women and families of the vital importance of complementary feeding, which together with appropriate breastfeeding practices can save the lives of close to 2 million children around the world each year.
“UNICEF applauds Malaysia’s Ministry of Health for its programs around breastfeeding which encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months, and then continue to breastfeed while providing timely, nutritionally adequate, safe and responsively-fed complementary foods for two years or longer”, said Gaye Phillips, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia.
According to Phillips, breast milk is the ideal nourishment for infants, especially for the first six months of life as it contains all the nutrients, antibodies, hormones and antioxidants and other factors an infant needs for survival, growth and development. It protects babies from diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections and stimulates their immune system and responses to other diseases.
Key milestones in Malaysia’s achievements around the promotion of breastfeeding are:
1970s : A National Breastfeeding Campaign was initiated in 1976 by the Ministry of Health to promote a culture of breastfeeding in both urban and rural areas. Women and their families were provided information and educated on the benefits and advantages of breastfeeding, prevention of diarrhoeal diseases from contaminated milk bottles and water, as well as cleanliness and hygiene.
1970s – 1980s : The Government formulates a Code of Ethics for Marketing and Distribution of Infant Formula Products in 1979. The code has undergone several revisions to improve cooperation among health professionals and the milk industry as well as to maintain voluntary compliance based on ethics for child health and survival.
1990s : The Government extends its promotion of breastfeeding programs into hospitals as a result of UNICEF and WHO introducing the Baby-Friendly Initiative. Nurses and doctors began actively advocating breastfeeding and discontinued the routine practice of giving bottle feeds to newborns. The first Ministry of Health hospital is declared a Baby-Friendly Hospital (BFH) in 1993. In 1997, all Ministry of Health hospitals were declared Baby-Friendly Hospitals. In March 1998, Malaysia was recognised by WHO as only the third country in the world, after Sweden and Oman, to have successfully accredited all its Government hospitals as Baby-Friendly. As of July 2005, 117 hospitals are accredited as Baby-Friendly Hospitals, including 2 army hospitals, 1 university hospital and 4 private hospitals.
2000s : Malaysia’s investments in child and maternal health care produces a dramatic 85 per cent reduction in infant mortality rates and under-five mortality rates over three decades. UNICEF’s global report “Progress for Children” released in 2004 highlights Malaysia’s remarkable progress placing it as one of just 13 countries in the region that is on track to meet its Millennium Development Goal obligations of a two-thirds reduction in national child deaths by 2015.
“Malaysia’s comprehensive package of services for children and mothers, including its breastfeeding and Baby-Friendly hospital initiatives has resulted in dramatic declines of infant and under-five child mortality rates in the past three and a half decades - from 40.8 per 1,000 live births in 1970 to 6.2 per 1,000 in 2002 for the former and from 57.1 per 1,000 live births in 1970 to 8.6 per 1,000 in 2002 for the latter,” continued Phillips.
NOTE TO EDITOR
World Breastfeeding Week 2005
United Nations Children’s Fund