UNICEF finds 1 in 3 mothers in Thailand exclusively breastfeed their babies, far below target

31 July 2023
A mother is breastfeeding her baby.
UNICEF Thailand/2022
A mother breastfeeds her baby at King Narai Hospital in Lopburi Province. The hospital provides maternal and child health services to all pregnant women and new mothers to ensure that all children are born healthy.

BANGKOK, 1 August 2023 – A recent UNICEF-supported survey finds almost 1 in 3 mothers (29 per cent) in Thailand exclusively breastfed their babies during the first six months of life, which is up from 14 per cent in 2019.  Yet, the rate is still far below the Global Nutrition Target of 50 per cent by 2025. To mark World Breastfeeding Week in the first week of August, UNICEF is calling for increased support from public and private sectors to help all mothers including working mothers successfully exclusively breastfeed their babies.

“While the new data shows that exclusive breastfeeding rate in Thailand doubled during the past few years, too many children here are still missing the opportunity to have the best start in life,” said Kyungsun Kim, UNICEF Representative for Thailand. “Breastmilk is a mother’s superpower. But as a mother myself, I know that breastfeeding is not always easy, and to continue breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months is very challenging, especially for working mothers. Mothers need support from family members, doctor and nurses as well as employers and co-workers to be able to continue breastfeeding and give their babies the best food for their optimal development.”  

Breastmilk is the best food for babies, full of all the nutrients that the babies need to grow and thrive. Breastfed children are less likely to suffer from wasting and stunting and have improved cognitive outcomes compared to non-breastfed children. The World Health Organization and UNICEF advise mothers to breastfeed their babies during the first hour of life, and exclusively breastfeed for six months. After six months, mothers can continue breastfeeding while also providing their infants with age-appropriate food until they are two years old.

This week UNICEF Thailand is launching a social media campaign “the Masterpiece” to raise public awareness that breastfeeding is everyone’s business. The campaign features tributes to the world's most iconic artwork playfully reworked to reiterate the importance of breastfeeding. The campaign emphasizes that breastfeeding has been important throughout human history.

Yet, mothers in modern society today face many barriers to breastfeed. Some mothers are not able to access timely support from healthcare staff if they have lactation problems after returning home from hospital.  At the same time, mothers may lack support from family members, partly due to marketing of infant formula which creates the misunderstanding that infant formula is as good as breastmilk. In addition, too many mothers find it difficult to continue breastfeeding after returning to work as their workplaces are not supportive in helping them continue breastfeeding at work.

UNICEF continues to call for stronger family-friendly policies in workplaces to help children get the best start in life. This includes at least 6-month paid parental leave, breastfeeding rooms and breastfeeding breaks, support from employers and co-workers, and access to quality and affordable childcare services.

“Ensuring that every child has the opportunity to get the best start in life is not the responsibility of mothers alone, but everyone. It is also the smartest human investment for our society and shared future.”  Kim added.

Media contacts

Rudina Vojvoda
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Thailand Country Office
Nattha Keenapan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Thailand Country Office

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