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Breastfeeding, the only option for infants, regardless of food price hikes

KUALA LUMPUR, 17 June 2008 – Regardless of price hikes in food and other essentials, breastfeeding must at all times be considered the only option for infants cautions the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in response to a news daily report today titled “Pricey infant formula forces substitute feeding”.

The newspaper report cites that poor mothers who are not able to produce breastmilk because of under-nourishment are substituting infant formula with diluted condensed milk, rock sugar water, black coffee and plain tea, to feed their infants and toddlers.

“Using breastmilk substitutes such as infant formula, animal's milk, powdered milk, condensed milk, teas, sugar drinks, water and cereal foods are inferior to breastmilk, and can be a threat to infants' health as it increases the risk of diarrhoea and other diseases,” says an alarmed and concerned UNICEF Malaysia Representative Mr Youssouf Oomar. “Breastmilk is the best food a young child can have as it is easy to digest, promotes the best growth and development and protects against illness.”

Mr. Youssouf also explains that virtually all mothers can produce adequate amounts of breastmilk unless they are extremely and severely malnourished.

“There is a common misconception that malnutrition greatly reduces the amount of milk a mother produces. Studies show that the amount of breastmilk produced depends mainly on how often and how effectively the baby sucks on the breast. If a mother temporarily produces less milk than the infant needs, the infant responds by suckling more vigorously, more frequently, or longer at each feeding,” says Mr. Youssouf. “This stimulates greater milk production.”

In such situations where the mother is under-nourished, UNICEF stresses that it is better to address the nutritional status of the mother, rather than ignoring it.

“When the breastfeeding mother is under-nourished, it is safer, easier, and less expensive to give her more food than to expose an infant under six months of age to the risks associated with feeding breastmilk substitutes or other foods,” adds Mr. Youssouf. “Additionally, ensuring mothers are healthy must always be a priority for all families as mothers are tasked with the precious responsibility of primary caregivers”.

Although children need additional foods after they are six months old, breastmilk is still an important source of energy, protein and other nutrients such as vitamin A and iron. Breastmilk helps protect against disease for as long as the child breastfeeds.

From the age of six months to one year, breastfeeding should be offered before other foods. Parents should ensure that their infants take plenty of breastmilk every day. The child's diet should also include peeled, cooked and mashed vegetables, grains, pulses and fruit, some oil, as well as fish, eggs, chicken, meat or dairy products to provide vitamins and minerals.

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For more information, please contact UNICEF Malaysia:

 

 
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