World Breastfeeding Week: UNICEF and WHO call on the government and stakeholders to support breastfeeding mothers in Indonesia during COVID-19

Services and programmes that safely promote breastfeeding practices during the pandemic must be prioritised to protect child and maternal health

03 August 2020
Mother Sarifah and Luthfi
UNICEF/UN0330680/Donnell
Mother Sarifah and Luthfi in the family home at Pandere Village in Sigi, Central Sulawesi.

JAKARTA, 03 August 2020 – As the world marks World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) are calling on the government and stakeholders to safeguard and promote access to services that support mothers to continue breastfeeding practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early and exclusive breastfeeding helps children survive and provides them with antibodies that protect against many common childhood illnesses, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. Evidence suggests that breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be obese or overweight, and are less prone to diabetes later in life. Increasing breastfeeding rates globally could save the lives of more than 820,000 children under the age of 5 every year and could also prevent an additional 20,000 cases of breast cancer in women annually.

In Indonesia, however, only 1 in 2 infants under 6 months of age are exclusively breastfed, and by 23 months of age, slightly more than half of children continue to be breastfed, meaning that nearly half of all Indonesian children are not receiving the nourishment they need during their first two years of life. More than 40 per cent of babies are introduced to complementary foods too early, before reaching 6 months, often with foods that do not meet their nutritional needs.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential services such as breastfeeding counselling through hospitals, clinics and home visits, as well as the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative has been disrupted. Misinformation about the safety of breastfeeding has led to decreases in the practice by women who fear it could harm babies.

“During this time, when some community health services may be disrupted, understanding the significant benefit of breastfeeding and mother–infant interaction to prevent childhood illness and promote health and development is particularly vital,” said Dr Paranietharan, WHO Representative to Indonesia.

Even if a mother is confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, UNICEF and WHO encourage women to continue to breastfeed during the pandemic, with no separation of mother and baby, while adhering to appropriate infection and control measures. At present, there is insufficient data to conclude vertical transmission of COVID-19 through breastfeeding, while the consequences of not breastfeeding and separation between mother and child can be significant. Therefore, the numerous benefits of breastfeeding appear to substantially outweigh the potential risks for transmission.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, breastfeeding must take on renewed importance as we look to keep children and mothers healthy and safe,” said UNICEF Indonesia Representative Debora Comini. “Together, we have the power to enable breastfeeding and support families in fostering a nurturing environment where all children thrive, even in the midst of a pandemic.”

To support mothers to continue optimal breastfeeding practices, UNICEF and WHO call on the government and stakeholders to scale up investments needed to protect and support breastfeeding, including:

  • Prioritising services and programmes to protect, promote and support breastfeeding as a critical component of the health and nutrition response to COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Continuing to support breastfeeding mothers with improved quality counselling and accurate information on maternal, infant and young child nutrition, including strengthening the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative;
  • Ending the promotion of breastmilk substitutes to enable mothers and caregivers to make informed decisions on best way to feed their babies.

Furthermore, WHO, UNICEF and partners recently issued a call for manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes to commit to full compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the code) and subsequent resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly (to help ensure that all infants and young children worldwide are optimally breastfed and eat a healthy diet.

For questions and answers related to COVID-19 and breastfeeding, please visit: www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-and-breastfeeding

 

Media Contacts

WHO Communications Team
Kinanti Pinta Karana
Communications Specialist
UNICEF Indonesia
Tel: +62 8158805842

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