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Exclusive Breastfeeding – Safe, Sound and Sustainable, says UNICEF

© UNICEF Viet Nam \ Truong Viet Hung

Hanoi, 30 July 2004: “Exclusive Breastfeeding” is the theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week (1 – 7 August 2004) and UNICEF is taking action to encourage all Vietnamese mothers to adopt this practice. UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend six-months of exclusive breastfeeding for new mothers, with only supplemental vitamins, as necessary, followed by partial breastfeeding for at least the first two years in order to provide a healthy diet for their children.
“Unfortunately, less than one third of mothers breastfeed their infants in the first four months of life,” said Mr. Anthony Bloomberg, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam.  “This figure drops to 5 % for infants between 4 -6 months of age.  This is one of the lowest rates in the world, where the average is around 40%, and it can adversely affect the health of young babies.  World Breastfeeding Week is an opportunity to reinforce the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and to encourage support for this critical health issue.”
UNICEF is working with health authorities to promote the view that exclusive breastfeeding is ‘safe, sound and sustainable’:

  1. “Safe”: Helps to prevent and combat common infections, such as diarrhea and pneumonia. It also helps prevent many allergies, such as asthma.
  2. “Sound”: Breast milk contains all the essential nutrients and in the correct quantity is best suited to the infant’s dietary needs.
  3. “Sustainable”: As long as the mother (or wet nurse) is present, breast milk will be available. There is no need to obtain other food for the baby.

Despite these benefits, most mothers in Viet Nam are not following these recommended guidelines. The causes are largely due to social attitudes, lack of support within the community, especially by husbands and grandparents, women working long days, inadequate education and mothers not being aware of the vital importance of this issue.
UNICEF is currently working with the Reproductive Health Department of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other groups to help heighten awareness of the importance of proper breastfeeding practices. In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF is planning several events to spread the message of the need for exclusive breastfeeding.

  1. UNICEF is supporting a mass media campaign through central radio and television, including a new 30 second television spot.
  2. “Sunday at Home”, one of Viet Nam Television’s most popular programmes, is broadcasting a special segment on breastfeeding.
  3. And, UNICEF is supporting two workshops sponsored by the Ministry of Health with 53 Baby Friendly Hospitals around the country that will work directly with mothers on these critical issues. A Golden Bow is being used as the symbol for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week and will be distributed at the workshops. The gold colour represents the gold standard for infant feeding, while one loop of the bow represents the mother, the other loop, the child. The knot represents the support of the father, family and society.

UNICEF is supporting further initiatives, such as establishing a supportive legal environment and continuing education and awareness campaigns. Accurate knowledge, a positive environment and confidence in breastfeeding are all major factors that enable mothers to breastfeed successfully and to ensure the health of their children.

For more information, please contact:
Sue Spencer,
UNICEF Communication Section;
Telephone: +84 4 942 5706 ext 210 or sspencer@unicef.org
Nguyen Dinh Quang, Assistant Project Officer, UNICEF Health and Nutrition Section,
Telephone: +84 4 942 5706 ext 332 ndquang@unicef.org

 

 

 
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