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Breast Milk – Let’s Talk About Love!

World Breastfeeding Week in Viet Nam 1-7 August, 2011

August 1 2011, Ha Noi – This year, World Breastfeeding Week focuses globally on the importance of communication in supporting breastfeeding mothers all over the world. A campaign “Breast Milk - Let’s Talk About Love!” is being launched today to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week in Viet Nam.

Co-organized by the Ministry of Health, the United Nations and the Alive & Thrive initiative, “Breast Milk - Let’s Talk About Love!” aims to engage and mobilize various stakeholders and sectors – families, employers, health workers, legislators, mass organizations, development organizations and social networks - to create an informed and supportive environment that enables mothers to breastfeed within the first hour of a child’s life, exclusively breastfeed for six months and continue to breastfeed up to two years of age and beyond. 

“Breastfeeding is a special and intimate time between a mother and baby but without strong support from family, health staff and communities, exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months is very difficult,” said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF representative to Viet Nam. “Breastfeeding is the single most important factor in child survival and development, more important than any vaccine, modern technology or other health interventions.”

Although exclusive breastfeeding is the most complete form of nutrition for infants and small children during the first six months of life, only 19.6% of Vietnamese mothers breastfeed their children exclusively during this critical period of babies’ lives. This is much lower than the world’s average of 35% of mothers who exclusively breastfeed their children.

Lack of early, exclusive and continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary feeding has contributed to the serious health consequences for children in Viet Nam. A third of Vietnamese children are stunted while every fifth child is underweight.

“Breastfeeding also helps prevent a great number of diseases, in childhood, as well as adulthood, from infections to allergies and chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, which cost millions of dollars to the national budget,” said Graham Harrison, WHO acting representative in Viet Nam. ‘‘The economic savings of breastfeeding are critical not only for governments, but also for the poorer families who spend a large part of their incomes on infant formula.”

The campaign “Breast Milk - Let’s Talk about Love!” will be held in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City and in 9 provinces across Viet Nam. A series of events will be organized during World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) and through the month of August. In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, breastfeeding festivals will host breastfeeding mothers to share their knowledge and experiences while enjoining in festivities. During World Breastfeeding Week, mothers across Viet Nam will receive free breastfeeding counseling and complementary health checks for their children.

This year's campaign focuses on the following key messages:

  • Breastfeed your infant within one hour of birth
  • Breastfeed you child exclusively in the first six months, no water, no formula, no food
  • The more the baby suckles the more milk you will produce
  • Your newborn needs only 5-7 ml of breast milk each time s/he breastfeeds during the first two days of life
  • Breastfeed up to 24 months as breast milk continues to provide vital nutrients for your baby’s development 
  • Health worker - promote breast milk not formula milk; promote breastfeeding, not bottle feeding

“Breastfeeding is one of the most important investments that parents can make in the first two years of their child’s life. Research all over the world demonstrates that breastfed children are healthier and smarter than non-breastfed children. We therefore need to ensure that every child born in Viet Nam gets the best possible start in life – and that start begins with breastmilk,” said Ms. Nemat Hajeebhoy, Country Director of Alive & Thrive.

Viet Nam's Ministry of Health, with support from the UN in Viet Nam and Alive & Thrive is committed to protecting, supporting and promoting breastfeeding. The Ministry of Health’s commitment is demonstrated in part in the forthcoming National Nutrition Strategy and the Action Plan on Infant and Young Child Feeding, currently in final stages of development. The Ministry of Health and its partners are taking a multi-faceted approach to address child malnutrition in Viet Nam through enacting stronger policies and enacting programs to support women and families:

  • For breastfeeding protection, there is a need to ensure a provision of paid maternity leave for six months in the National Labour Code and related guidelines. Additionally, this year serves as the 5-year benchmark of the adoption of Decree 21 on the Trade and Use of Breast Milk Substitutes in Viet Nam, marking an opportunity to identify areas for revision to improve both implementation and compliance with the Decree’s provisions, as well as to consider revisions to the Decree.
  • For breastfeeding promotion, there is a need to empower health and community workers to ensure mothers have access to skilled support and counseling on breast feeding practices.
  • For breastfeeding support, there is a need to ensure that up to date information is available to mothers and their families.

“On this occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, I would like to call upon our leaders, representatives of mass organizations, ministries and health workers to protect and promote early, exclusive and continued breastfeeding.  I would also like to call on families - fathers, mothers, grandparents, uncles and aunts to support mothers to breastfeed early and exclusively,” said Vice-Minister of Health Dr Nguyen Viet Tien.

The World Breastfeeding Week is an annual event that draws attention to the health and economic impacts of breastfeeding. This year more than 170 countries are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week.

For more information please contact:

  • Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, One UN Communications Officer;
    Tel. 84 4 3822 4383 ext 401; Email: ntthuong@unicef.org
  • Ms. Vu Thi Thu Ha, Alive and Thrive PR and Advocacy Specialist,
    Tel: 84 4  3573 9066 ext 105; Email: vha@aed.org

 

 
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