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UNICEF’s proposals to the Ministry of Health to promote breastfeeding in Iran

As per UNICEF Iran’s Representative speech in the Breastfeeding Seminar in Tehran, August 2013

06 August 2013-To date nothing has proven more effective than breastfeeding to avert nutritional disorders, and to reduce diarrhea, pneumonia and infections among new-borns. Yet, at the global level, only 37% of babies are exclusively breast-fed for the first six months of their life.

More alarming is the fact that breastfeeding rates are declining in some regions while the baby-food market is growing rapidly.

The globe is celebrating the breast-feeding week this year under the theme “Breastfeeding Support for Mothers”. Societies need to understand that mothers on their will not succeed in providing optimal breastfeeding for their babies.

While the role of mothers to ensure the well-being and best nutrition of their babies is crucial, it is very important to realize that the well-being and best nutrition of babies is not the sole responsibility of mothers. For those of us who read Quran, we can clearly see that Almighty God has put the responsibility to secure breastfeeding of babies on the fathers. Accordingly, fathers are responsible for the full support and maintenance of mothers while they perform breastfeeding. Quran clearly sees the nutrition of a child as part of the bread-winning responsibility of men.

The nutritional well-being of children is a public health concern that a wide range of stakeholders and decision makers in the society are responsible and accountable for. A malnourished child is the responsibility of the whole society. And the costs of treating the long-term complications of malnourishment are born and shouldered by the society at large.

Therefore, the society should appreciate the role of mothers in breastfeeding their babies. These mothers are not only caring for their own babies. In fact these mothers are providing an invaluable service to the entire society. As such, the society has the responsibility to fully support breastfeeding mothers.

For many reasons, the role of women in the society is increasingly growing much beyond the traditional child-bearing and rearing. An ever increasing number of women are now joining the labour force in the market-place. The burden on working mothers is growing heavier and we can not expect them to manage own their own.

No adequate breastfeeding will happen if mothers are separated from their babies for long hours. Working mothers need special arrangements to breastfeed their babies at the workplace. This includes mothers who are working for the private sector, the public sector or the informal sector. There is a need to have private places designated for breastfeeding in public places such as the malls and shopping areas, airports, and buses and train stations. A mother that cannot find a private place to breastfeed her baby while she is away from home is left with no choice but a bottle filled with an artificial baby-formulae. Why many public places have designated rooms for smokers but no designated rooms for breast-feeding mothers?

Mothers and babies need to be protected from the aggressive marketing of breast-milk substitutes. The strict enforcement of the “International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes” is a must.

Recent statistics have shown impressive improvement of exclusive breastfeeding in Iran. UNICEF notes this improvement with appreciation.

I would like to make three specific proposals to the Ministry of Health in Iran in this regard:

1-      Please take the lead in promoting private places for breastfeeding mothers at workplace and in public places such as malls or shopping areas, airports and train and buses stations. In Iran many people have been donating space and money for mosques. I am sure many of these benevolent people will support your call to save the lives of babies through designating breast-feeding rooms in public places.

2-      Please review the practices of many private pharmacies with regard to the marketing and selling of baby-formulas. You may consider a special certification such as “baby friendly pharmacies” for those pharmacies which abide by the “International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes” and any additional ethical measures you may find fit.

3-      Please organize periodic review of the status of compliance of the certified “Baby-Friendly Hospitals”. We need to ensure that the certified baby-friendly hospitals continue to abide by the principles of baby-friendly hospitals.

And I assure the Ministry of Health of UNICEF’s commitment to continue to support you in this very noble cause, the cause of supporting breast-feeding mothers and the achievement of the best nutritional status for every child living on the soil of the Islamic Republic of Iran.







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