Nutrition partners caution against unnecessary use of breast-milk substitutes (BMS)

Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival

24 September 2021
UNICEF Myanmar
©UNICEF Myanmar/2021/Nyan Zay Htet

Joint Statement

It has been reported that breast-milk substitute products have been donated to people affected by emergencies in Myanmar including the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognise the use of breast-milk substitute can be a last resort intended to save the life of a baby. However, unnecessary and unauthorized distribution of such products can endanger children’s lives.

The World Health Organisation and UNICEF recommend exclusive breastfeeding should start within the first hour of birth and continue exclusively for six months. Additional nutrient-rich foods should be introduced only after 6 months along with continued breastfeeding up to 23 months and beyond.

While breastfeeding is proven to be one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival, breast milk substitutes fail to provide the same protection to newborns and infants against life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.

Even when a mother or a baby is ill, breast-milk almost always remains the optimal choice.

Women with COVID-19 who wish to breastfeed may do so by following basic hygiene practices such as wearing a mask during breastfeeding and washing their hands before and after touching the baby. Mothers who are too unwell to breastfeed may be supported by caregivers to safely provide their babies with breast milk by other means including expressing milk into a clean cup to feed the baby.

If a child under six months is ill, more frequent intake of breast-milk—with the advice and support of health professionals or trained community health workers—helps the baby fight sickness and recover more quickly.

Therefore, we strongly urge all partners to prioritize promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and safe, appropriate complementary feeding, as part of their emergency response to the COVID-19 epidemic and other emergencies.

Donations or general distributions of infant formula, bottles and teats should be reported using the following email address:

Media contacts

Nutrition Cluster Coordination

UNICEF in Myanmar  

UNICEF has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, UNICEF’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation. 

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