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Infant and young child feeding: Appropriate infant feeding practices are crucial for child survival and development

breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of life.
© UNICEF Mozambique
Breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of life.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 22 August 2011 – Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of life. After this, children should receive solid, semi-solid and soft foods in increasing frequency, along with continued breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be continued to two years of age and beyond. The WHO recommends that breastfeeding be initiated immediately after birth, when the newborn’s sucking reflex is strong.

The Ministry of Health approved in early 2009 a comprehensive five-year communication and social mobilization plan to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. In 2008, 63 per cent of newborns were put to the breast within one hour after birth. This compares with a figure of 65 per cent in 2003. Eighty-eight per cent of newborns were put to the breast within one day of birth in 2008. Exclusive breastfeeding rates in children under six months old in Mozambique increased significantly between 2003 and 2008 (from 30 to 37 per cent), but the level remains low in absolute terms. Exclusive breastfeeding decreases rapidly with age of the baby; from 57 per cent for the zero-to-one month age group to 17 per cent in the four-to-five month age group.

The main items given to newborns that interfere with exclusive breasfeeding are water and solid, semi-solid or soft foods. A qualitative study in Maputo City and the provinces of Gaza, Tete, Zambezia and Nampula showed that mothers have heard of the recommendation to breastfeed exclusively, but feel that they are not able to put their knowledge into practice, since other family members insist that they should give their baby water, traditional medicines and/or solid, semi-solid or soft foods. This suggests that communication efforts should focus on eliminating these items from the diet and include family members and communities in efforts to communicate that breast milk contains sufficient water and nutrients for children less than six months old, and that mothers need practical and emotional support for breastfeeding.

The median duration of breastfeeding in 2008 was reduced to 18 months, from 22 months in 2003. This is a cause of concern, since breast milk still provides key nutrients and protects against disease for children between 12 and 23 months of age. Continued breastfeeding is most important when children are sick and lose their appetite for other foods, but continue to be breastfed.

After six months, solid, semi-solid and soft foods need to be introduced into children’s diet, with an adequate frequency. For children between six and eight months of age, this is two to three times per day, and for children between nine and eleven months, it is three times per day, in addition to breast milk. On average, only half of children aged six to eleven months received the minimum recommended number of meals, and there is significant variability between provinces. For example, 71 per cent of children in the relevant age group are being appropriately fed in Niassa compared with 32 per cent in Inhambane.

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: maputo@unicef.org

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: maputo@unicef.org

 

 
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