Nutrition

Breastfeeding: The best choice for babies

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Angola/2005
Mothers learn how to breastfeed their children in Angola.

By Kun Li

NEW YORK, 1 August 2005 – UNICEF and its partners, including the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, the World Health Organization and international NGOs, are together celebrating World Breastfeeding Week, 1-7 August. Better feeding practices for children could reduce child mortality rates by almost one fifth.

Experts agree that exclusive breastfeeding is the perfect way to provide the best food for a baby’s first six months of life. It also protects children from life-threatening diseases.

Continued breastfeeding after six months, along with appropriate complementary feeding, is considered the optimal approach to child feeding and yields tremendous benefits for child survival.

“Recent research shows that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months with continued breastfeeding for the first year could save 1.3 million lives every year,” said Dr. Miriam H. Labbok, UNICEF’s Senior Advisor on Infant and Young Child Feeding and Care. “This is well over 3,000 lives each and every day.”

“If you add to that the benefit of complementary feeding – continued breastfeeding and complementary feeding – we could be saving 5,500 additional lives each and every day of every year,” Dr. Labbok added.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Bangladesh/2004
A mother in Bangladesh learns how to breastfeed her baby.

Educational programmes

Despite the tremendous benefits from breastfeeding, more than 60 per cent of mothers don’t exclusively breastfeed during the crucial first six months. The damage to children from lack of proper feeding in the first two years of life is often permanent.

“What we are concerned about is that every child should be exclusively breastfed,” explained Dr. Labbok. “If not exclusively breastfed, they are exposed to excess diseases. Their immune systems remain immature for longer. They don’t respond as well to vaccinations. They run the risk of having excess chronic disease and cancer.”

Appropriate complementary feeding after six months provides additional nutrition, in the form of essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates, to help meet a growing child’s needs.

As part of its ongoing programmes, UNICEF and its partners are working to teach mothers around the world how to properly feed their babies. This is part of a global initiative to promote breastfeeding, to support mothers and give children the best possible start in life.


 

 

Video

1 August 2005:
UNICEF Correspondent Kun Li reports on the importance of proper feeding to children.

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