Support Urged for Breastfeeding and Appropriate Infant and Young Child Feeding in Flood Emergency in Thailand
BANGKOK, 4 November 2011 – UNICEF, WHO, and Thai Breastfeeding Center are calling for support for breastfeeding as the most appropriate means to feed infant and young child in the current flood emergency, and are urging caution about unnecessary donations of breast-milk substitutes (BMS) and the potential dangers it can pose to the well-being of children in emergency situations.
Breastfeeding is the best and safest way to ensure optimum nutrition for babies and to protect them from infection in environments without safe water supply and sanitation. During emergency situations disease and death rates among under-five children are often higher than for any other age group, with the youngest children usually facing the highest risk. The possible spread of communicable diseases and diarrhoea pose a particular threat to young children.
Misconception: During emergencies, mothers can no longer breastfeed adequately because of stress or inadequate nutrition
Although stress can temporarily interfere with the flow of breast milk, it is not likely to affect breast milk production, provided mothers and infants remain together and are supported to initiate and continue breastfeeding. Mothers who cannot maintain their normal diet in flood-affected areas can still breastfeed. Provision of clean drinking water and healthy food for mothers must be a priority in order to help protect their health and well-being, as well as the health of their young children.
Donations and procurement of breast-milk substitutes and other milk products
In accordance with the international guidelines adopted by the World Health Assembly, donations of infant formula, bottles and teats and other powdered or liquid milk and milk products should not be made. Experience with past emergencies in some countries has shown an excessive supply of such products can endanger infants’ lives. The distribution and use of breast-milk substitutes (BMS) should be based on careful needs assessments. Any distribution and use of breast-milk substitutes should be carefully monitored to ensure that only the infants in need receive the product.
Feeding of the non-breastfed child less than six months of age
Breastfeeding should be given the highest priority, especially for infants less than six months of age. However, in circumstances where breastfeeding has been stopped, mothers should be supported to restart breastfeeding (relactation) as soon as possible. If this is not possible, or when artificial feeding is indicated by skilled staff such as health providers or infant feeding counselors, BMS can be used as long as it is accompanied by training on how to prepare it in a safe and hygienic manner. If it is determined that BMS is necessary, mothers should have access to clean drinking water, preferably boiled or bottled water and proper cleaning equipment. Using cups to feed the BMS should be encouraged to decrease the risk of contamination from non-sterile bottles and teats. Artificial feeding in an emergency carries high risks and should be used as a last resort only after other safer options, such as breastfeeding, have first been fully explored.
Complementary feeding of children above six months of age
From the age of six months, children require nutrient-rich, age-appropriate and safe complementary foods in addition to breast milk. Priority should be placed on locally available, culturally-acceptable, nutritionally adequate and age-appropriate foods.
UNICEF, WHO, and Thai Breastfeeding Center strongly urge all who are involved in planning and implementing the emergency flood response in Thailand to avoid unnecessary illnesses and deaths by promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding and by preventing uncontrolled distribution and use of breast-milk substitutes. The media can play an important role to help promote breastfeeding among the public and if deemed appropriate to provide accurate information about safe artificial feeding.
For more information please contact:
Mark Thomas, UNICEF Thailand 081-172-9902
Pornthida Padthong, UNICEF Thailand, 086-567-1778
Chadin Thepaval, WHO Thailand, 089-925-4082
Dr. Yupayong hangchaovanich, Thai Breastfeeding Center, 081-659-5810