World Breastfeeding Day 2022
What you need to know about breastfeeding and how UNICEF is promoting the practice
During World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF joins the rest of the world to reemphasize the importance of breastfeeding and recommit to promoting the simple but cost-effective practice that provides children with the best start life. Breastfeeding children exclusively during their first six months of life – meaning only breastmilk and no other liquids or solids, not even water is critical to boosting their growth and development.
While the benefits of breastfeeding are enormous in Sudan, only 62 per cent of children are exclusively breastfed in the first six months, leaving several children at the risk of catching life-threatening illnesses and slipping into malnutrition due to weak immunity.
In Sudan, malnutrition remains a major concern with about 3 million malnourished children, of whom 650,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).
How can breastfeeding avert malnutrition?
Good nutrition is closely linked to exclusive breastfeeding and good complementary feeding practices. While suboptimal breastfeeding can be linked to underweight children.
UNICEF and World Health Organization confirm that early initiation of breastfeeding (in the first hour of birth), exclusive breastfeeding (between 0-6 months) and continued breastfeeding (6-23 months) offer optimal nutritional needs for the baby, and a powerful line of defense against all forms of childhood malnutrition including wasting.
Proper nutrition of children during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life – from conception to two years of age – provides a child with a great foundation for a healthy start and is a critical window of opportunity to reducing stunting. When infants are introduced to breastfeeding early, exclusively breastfed for the first six months and practice continued until they are two years, malnutrition can be averted.
Babies who are breastfed are healthier and their growth and development is faster while those that are not are more susceptible to disease than the breastfed. In the first six months of life, breastmilk alone is sufficient for the child and acts as a baby’s first vaccine, providing critical protection from diseases and death.
However, for mothers to effectively breastfeed, they require a strong support network. Caregivers, spouses, health workers, parents, employers should provide the necessary support and environment for successful breastfeeding experiences that will benefit children.
How UNICEF is working to promote breastfeeding
- Support advocacy efforts with decision makers including government and implementing partners to take appropriate actions towards supporting and promotion of breastfeeding.
- Building the capacity of national partners to lead effective Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) programmes.
- Supports policy development, legislations, strategies and action plans that promote breastfeeding.
- Supporting Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) counselling in health facilities and community-based programmes (Mother support groups) and other IYCF groups. During the sessions, mothers learn about good feeding practices for their children including breastfeeding, complementary feeding, malnutrition and its dangers, and other key family care practices.
- Through its flagship social protection programme, UNICEF launched a new Mother and Cash Transfer Plus (MCCT+) Programme. The integrated social protection programme provides vulnerable pregnant women and lactating mothers with regular cash assistance combined with knowledge, skills and access to basic health, nutrition and protection services. MCCT+ aims to contribute to a reduction in child and maternal mortality and malnutrition by improving maternal, infant and young child feeding including breastfeeding and promoting essential family practices in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life – from conception to 2 years of age.
Breastfeeding boosts brain development
What you need to know about breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding provides children the best start in life. It is a baby’s best source of nutrition, bolstering brain development with lifelong benefits for the mother and the baby.
- Early initiation of breastfeeding (in the first hour of birth), exclusive breastfeeding (between 0-5 months) and continued breastfeeding (6-23 months) offer a powerful line of defense against infection and malnutrition.
- In contrast, infants who are not fully or partially breastfed have a higher risk of diarrhea and are more likely to die from severe malnutrition if they don’t get lifesaving treatment.
- Breastfeeding milk provides all the nutrients babies need until about six months.
- Breastmilk substitutes pose significant health risks to vulnerable infants and should only be provided when all other options have been explored. UNICEF and WHO have issued clear guidelines for parents, care givers and health professionals to ensure safe and appropriate use of formula milk.