World Breastfeeding Week 2021: Greater support needed for breastfeeding mothers in Indonesia amid COVID-19
WHO and UNICEF are calling on the Government and partners to support mothers to continue breastfeeding during the ongoing pandemic and get vaccinated for COVID-19
JAKARTA, 31 July 2021 – As World Breastfeeding Week kicks off tomorrow, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are calling on the Government and all partners to support and protect mothers in Indonesia to continue optimal breastfeeding practices during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, mothers should be encouraged to initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, exclusively breastfeed their infants during the first six months, and continuously breastfeed up to two years and beyond.
With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia, WHO, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health recommend that breastfeeding mothers get the COVID-19 vaccine, and mothers who are vaccinated are encouraged to continue breastfeeding to protect their infants.
Breastfeeding is the best source of nourishment for infants and young children, and a proven lifesaving strategy that helps protect children against many common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia. It is well established that breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be obese or overweight and are less prone to non-communicable diseases later in life. Increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels globally could save more than 820,000 lives and prevent an additional 20,000 cases of breast cancer in women each year.
“Breastfeeding provides countless health, social and economic benefits for both children and their mothers,” said UNICEF Indonesia Representative Debora Comini. “Now more than ever, we need to support breastfeeding mothers, so they give their children the best possible start in life. For this, we need to ensure that all breastfeeding mothers are vaccinated against COVID-19, in order to be protected against the virus and able to care for their child"
Even before the pandemic, only 1 in 2 infants under six months of age were exclusively breastfed in Indonesia, with the median duration of exclusive breastfeeding only lasting three months. By 12 months and 23 months of age, three quarters and slightly more than half of infants continued to be breastfed, respectively. The pandemic has brought new challenges for mothers who are not only concerned about the safety of breastfeeding but social restrictions also mean that breastfeeding support is harder to find.
Moreover, with the health system in Indonesia stretched by the COVID-19 crisis, counselling and skilled lactation support for mothers has been strained. A national survey conducted by the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF reported that less than 50 per cent of mothers and caregivers of children aged under the age of two received breastfeeding counselling during the pandemic. The situation has been worsened by frequent violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitute.
“It is the responsibility of all to protect and support mothers to breastfeed their children,” said WHO Indonesia Representative Dr N. Paranietharan. “Optimal breastfeeding is so critical and important, that it is one of the most effective ways to ensure optimal child health and survival.”
As the benefits of breastfeeding are significant, mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections and who are isolating at home should continue breastfeeding with necessary and appropriate health protocols during feeding. Mothers should also be advised to continue breastfeeding if their child is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.
On the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, WHO and UNICEF are calling on the Government, partners and community members to:
- Ensure that breastfeeding mothers receive COVID-19 vaccinations and are encouraged to continue breastfeeding after vaccination
- Ensure that breastfeeding counselling is available to all mothers and caregivers of children under-two through both face-to-face and digital channels;
- Strengthen the implementation and monitoring of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitute to protect mothers from an inappropriate marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
- Ensure mothers are protected and supported to continue breastfeeding practice despite their and their children’s COVID-19 status.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.
The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing. #HealthforAll