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Facts and Figures

During the 1990s, modest improvements were made in exclusive breastfeeding for the first four months of life, with rates increasing from 48 to 52% in the developing world (based on 37 countries with trend data). Timely complementary feeding (at 6 to 9 months) has also improved , with levels increasing from 43% to 49% between 1990 and 2000. The proportion of infants still breastfeeding at one and two years of age increased only slightly.

Exclusive Breastfeeding 1995-2000

In general the greatest improvements occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the rates for all four indicators showed substantial increases. However, the region still ranks among the lowest on all four breastfeeding indicators. Exclusive breastfeeding rates by region indicate the highest levels in East Asia and the Pacific (57%) and the lowest in the CEE/CIS region (17%). Please see the following pages for country data.

Trends in breastfeeding patterns 1990-2000

The UNICEF breastfeeding initiatives concentrated on the proper initiation of breastfeeding in maternities and hospitals, and supportive legislation. These efforts were not designed to directly address exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months nor continued breastfeeding, nonetheless, there was an 8% increase in exclusive breastfeeding. This increase alone is estimated to have reduced infant mortality by more than 1 million, decreased fertility by 600,000 births, and saved countries billions of dollars in unneeded breastmilk substitutes. Additionally, global levels of continued breastfeeding have increased and are relatively high at one year of age (79%), and around half of infants are still breastfeeding at two years of age. Although not as yet at optimal levels, much progress has been made in the last decade.