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Breastfeeding critical for Myanmar children's survival

© UNICEF Myanmar/2006/Thame

UNICEF says mothers must be warned of breastmilk substitute dangers

YANGON, 01 August 2006 – On the launch of World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF Myanmar said that thousands of infants’ lives could be saved if new mothers only feed their babies with breastmilk – and nothing else – during the first six months of life.

Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life stimulates babies’ immune systems and protects them from diarrhea and acute respiratory infections – two of the leading causes of child death in Myanmar and the developing world.

Babies who are exclusively breastfed have fewer illnesses and are better nourished than those who are fed other drinks and foods.

“Breastmilk is the only food and drink an infant needs for the first six months,” said UNICEF Myanmar Representative Ramesh Shrestha.  “No other food or drink, not even water, is usually needed during this period.”

“If all of the world’s babies were fed only breastmilk for the first six months of life, 1.5 million infants’ lives would be saved every year, including thousands of lives in Myanmar.”

Despite the tremendous benefits from breastfeeding, 85 per cent of mothers in Myanmar don’t exclusively breastfeed their children during the crucial first six months.

After the first six months, babies need a variety of additional foods, but breastfeeding should continue through the child's second year and beyond.

“Breastmilk is the perfect food – a miracle of nature,” said Mr. Shrestha.  “It protects children from disease, makes them smarter, helps them grow, and it’s something that every mother can provide for their child.”

UNICEF urges new mothers to avoid breastmilk substitutes

“Today there are still multinational companies that are employing misleading and unethical means to push their breastmilk substitutes, weaning cereals and baby foods on families whose infant children have nothing to gain and everything to lose from these products,” noted UNICEF Representative Ramesh Shrestha. 

“During this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, we are recommitting ourselves to fully implementing the national code on breastmilk substitutes – for the sake of children.”

Experiences in many countries have demonstrated that active monitoring and implementation of national codes on breastmilk substitutes can largely put a stop to improper promotional practices.

Shortcomings in the implementation of these codes are often linked to difficulties in monitoring violations and taking necessary corrective actions.

“To help bring the national code on breastmilk substitutes into force, we need to place its promotion, monitoring and implementation on the agenda of every social worker and health worker in Myanmar,” said Mr. Shrestha.


The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) establishes that children have the right to survival and health services.  Myanmar ratified the CRC in 1991.


For further information please contact:
Jason Rush, Communication Officer, UNICEF in Myanmar
Phone: (95 1) 212 086;  Fax: (95 1) 212 063 ; Email:





Questions and Answers about breastmilk

Basic facts about breastmilk

  • The most natural, fresh and best nutrient for all infants;
  • Always safe and free from microbes;
  • Ready at all times without any cost. No special spending;
  • Fully and easily digestible;
  • Fewer incidences of diarrhea, colic and constipation;
  • Strengthens the immunity system and contributes to muscular and bone development;
  • Contributes to mental development;
  • Fully meets the water requirements of the infant -- there is no need for extra water;
  • Colostrum immediately following birth protects infants from diseases;
  • Builds special feelings of affection between the mother and her child;
  • Breastfeeding contributes to the health of the mother by reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.


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