Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life can avert up to 13 per cent of under-five deaths
Maputo, 1 August 2008 – As part of the World Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated from 1 to 7 August, UNICEF and partners are recommending that mothers are supported and encouraged to exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months of life.
“Breast milk provides a complete source of nutrition during the first six months of life and protects children from diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections. Breastfeeding is also important in the bonding between mother and child”, said UNICEF Representative Leila Pakkala.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life can avert up to 13 per cent of under-five deaths and provides an improved neurological development and improved protection against a number of chronic diseases in later life.
Actions have been taken in Mozambique in recent years to encourage mothers to provide breast milk to their babies. In November 2005 the Government adopted the National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which promotes breastfeeding and does not allow inappropriate marketing and selling of its substitutes.
The Prevention of Mother- to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme counsels mothers on options to feed their infants. Only when replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe, avoidance of all breastfeeding by HIV-positive women is recommended.
For HIV-positive women who choose to breastfeed, exclusive breastfeeding for six months is recommended, then breastfeeding should be discontinued as soon as feasible, to minimise the risk of HIV transmission to the child.
Mixed feeding before the age of 3 months in infants born to HIV-positive mothers is associated with a four-fold greater risk of postnatal transmission at 6 months compared to exclusive breastfeeding.
Although the vast majority of children are breastfed in Mozambique, the most recent national data shows that only 30 per cent of children are exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months of life. There are also differences between rural areas, where exclusive breastfeeding is higher – 32 per cent- and urban areas, where exclusive breastfeeding is lower – 25 per cent.
UNICEF, in collaboration with partners, has been supporting the Government to ensure promotion, protection and support to breastfeeding mothers and promotion of best breastfeeding practices through health workers, mother-to-mother support groups, and policy makers and at community level.