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Breastfeeding is the cheapest and most effective life-saver in history

© UNICEF Mongolia 2013

Ulaanbaatar, 1 August 2013 – During World Breastfeeding Week starting today, UNICEF is focusing on breastfeeding as the most effective and inexpensive way of saving a child’s life. But with less than half of all children under six months benefitting from exclusive breastfeeding, strong leadership in promoting the practice is essential.

This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding support: Close to Mothers”, focuses on the importance of Breastfeeding Peer Counselling support for mothers. More mothers breastfeed when they receive support, counselling and education in health centres and in their communities. In relation to celebrating the WBW, UNICEF partnering with the Ministry of Health, WHO, WVI organized launch of the week at the First Maternity Home followed by the Press Conference at Mongol News center.

“Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative” was launched in Mongolia in 1992 with support of international development partners including UNICEF, WHO and World Vision, ensuring that maternity facilities support mothers to make healthy choice for their children and for themselves on the best infant feeding options and provides skilled support. During the following ten years, many hospitals worked to become baby-friendly, and many health workers were trained on breastfeeding counseling, to help mothers to breastfeed optimally both in hospitals and in the community.

Children who are exclusively breastfed are 14 times more likely to survive the first six months of life than non-breastfed children. Starting breastfeeding in the first day after birth can reduce the risk of new-born death by up to 45 per cent.

Breastfeeding also supports a child’s ability to learn and helps prevent obesity and chronic diseases later in life. Recent studies in the United States and United Kingdom point to large health care savings resulting from breastfeeding, given that breastfed children fall ill much less often than non-breastfed children.

Apart from the benefits to the baby, mothers who breastfeed exclusively are less likely to become pregnant in the first six months following delivery, recover faster from giving birth, and return to their pre-pregnancy weight sooner. Evidence shows that they experience less post-partum depression and also have a lower risk of ovarian and breast cancers later in life.

In Mongolia, according to the MICS 2010 survey, over 40% of children aged 0-5 months were not exclusively breastfed.

Countries with supportive policies and comprehensive programmes that reach all communities have been able to increase their breastfeeding rates significantly.

There needs to be higher prioritization and commitment, targeted policies and greater consensus to engage the world in promoting this life-saving and vital practice.

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