Breastfeeding support is at the heart of national family-friendly policy
On the eve of World Breastfeeding Week, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) together with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, the Office of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights and the Centre for Social Leadership have initiated a public discussion on legislation to protect and support breastfeeding in public and workplace in line with EU standards and practices in the sectors of employment, social policy and equal opportunities, and in line with the World Health Organization (WHO)/UNICEF Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding.
The public discussion is expected to launch the development of a national strategy to protect and support breastfeeding from birth to two years of age, including systematic awareness raising and educating public and private institutions about the need for breastfeeding and family-friendly programmes. Incorporation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes into national legislation and the aggregation of breastfeeding-friendly jobs and programmes are a priority.
“Results from a survey conducted in 2012 indicated that in Ukraine only 19.7 per cent of children are exclusively breastfed1, which is low in comparison with the Eastern Europe and Central Asia regional estimate of 33 per cent1,” said Laura Bill, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Ukraine. “In comparison, rates of early initiation of breastfeeding (66 per cent) appear slightly higher in Ukraine than in the region (57 per cent). However, as support from the Government for giving every child the best start in life is limited, as well as because of aggressive marketing campaigns from producers of breast milk substitutes, the rate of early initiation of breastfeeding in Ukraine is sharply declining. Stopping breastfeeding at an early age increases the risk of children becoming overweight and obese, and also threatens their physical and intellectual development in later life.”
Breastfeeding from birth to two years, as well as exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life, have many health benefits for both mother and baby. Breast milk is the best food for babies, providing them with all the nutrients they need in the first six months of life. In addition, it contains immunological and biologically active substances that are not available in industrially produced nutrient mixtures for children. These substances provide protection against microbial and viral infections, and also promote the adaptation and development of babies’ intestines.
In addition, according to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, breastfeeding has a direct positive effect on the environment and climate change.
Therefore, development of a national strategy friendly to breastfeeding – and thus, to the family – will contribute to improvements in reproductive health and economic growth (primarily by reducing health expenditure and creating conditions for combining breastfeeding and work responsibilities). It will also reduce the reputational risks of the country, as Ukraine has not yet integrated the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes into national legislation.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.