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World Breastfeeding Week 2013 - Supporting mothers vital for breastfeeding

World Breastfeeding Week 2013: Supporting mothers vital for breastfeeding
© UNICEF Viet Nam\2013\Truong Viet Hung
Only 17 percent of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed, and nearly one-third of children under five in Viet Nam are stunted.

Ha Noi, 1 August 2013 – The importance of providing appropriate support for breastfeeding mothers, including peer support and counselling, is being stressed during the 2013 World Breastfeeding Week celebrations. From 1 -7 August, the Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF, WHO and Alive & Thrive, is encouraging provinces to raise awareness throughout Viet Nam with the theme “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers”.

Tremendous progress has been made Viet Nam, with two historic pieces of legislation to protect breastfeeding. The Law on Advertisement and amended Labor Code came into effect respectively on January 1st and May 1st 2013. Accordingly, Article 157 of amended Labor Code states that maternity leave pre and after delivery is 6 months; Point 4 Article 7 of Law on Advertisement states that advertisements for breastmilk substitutes for children under 24 months and complementary food for children under 6 months as well as bottle and nipples are banned. This has made Viet Nam an outstanding example among Asia-Pacific nations and setting an example for others to follow. However, in Viet Nam, only 17 percent of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed, and nearly one-third of children under five in Viet Nam are stunted.

“Adopting an IYCF Action Plan shows Viet Nam’s commitment to increase rates of optimal feeding practices throughout the country. Government and non-government partners at all levels must now adopt and implement these recommendations to ensure that mothers and families receive their full benefit.” said Dr. Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice Minister of Ministry of Health.

“It takes everyone – healthcare professionals, family members, employers, legislators, development organizations and social networks – to promote and support new and all breastfeeding mothers in ensuring exclusive and continued breastfeeding of their babies,” said Mr. Jesper Moller, Acting UNICEF representative to Viet Nam. “World Breastfeeding Week is a fitting time to celebrate Viet Nam’s progress in providing optimal health and nutrition for all children – we need to ensure that all mothers have the social support they need, as well as continuing to make further improvements in early nutrition.”
In June, the medical journal The Lancet published a second Maternal and Child Nutrition Series—a follow up to its landmark 2008 Series, which identified the 1,000 days between a mother’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday as the priority window of opportunity to improve nutrition and save lives. “The 2013 findings reaffirmed the critical importance of the 1,000 day window, highlighting that undernutrition during the 1,000 day window is a major determinant of both stunting and subsequent obesity and non-communicable diseases in adulthood”, said Ms. Nemat Hajeebhoy, Alive & Thrive Country Director.

Earlier this year, Viet Nam adopted a National Plan of Action for Infant and Young Child Feeding 2012-2015. The plan focuses on the importance of investing in the first 1,000 days to ensure that children develop to their full potential and emphasizes a multi-sectorial approach, involving governments, international organizations and advocates who will focus on six key solutions to achieve a number of goals and objectives. These include increasing rates of early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding up to 24 months or longer in order to reduce stunting.  

“There is ample scientific evidence that optimal nutrition is a critical way of ensuring that children grow up to learn more, to be more productive in the community and achieve their optimal height as an adult. When children are well-nourished, it can lift communities and entire countries out of poverty,” said Dr. Cristobal Tunon,  Senior Programme Manager Officer of WHO.

The IYCF Action Plan highlights six key solutions that actors at all levels should adopt to ensure optimal IYCF for all mothers and families:

  1. Develop strong IYCF policies
  2. Develop intervention packages that prioritize IYCF and are contextualized to each geographical region (provinces with high malnutrition prevalence) and tailored to vulnerable groups (orphans, vulnerable children, HIV-infected children, migrants and mothers and children affected by natural disasters)
  3. Strengthen behaviour change communications on IYCF and maternal nutrition, including materials and support provided to health and nutrition staff and community support groups
  4. Build the capacity of health workers and health service systems
  5. Develop coordination and cooperation mechanisms among ministries and agencies to maximize human resources, share information and create favourable conditions for IYCF
  6. Mobilize funds for IYCF activities from the State and provincial budgets and international organizations

“This week, and every week, we must call on leaders from every sector of government, society and healthcare, as well as family members and employers to protect and promote early, exclusive and continued breastfeeding,” Dr. Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice Minister of Ministry of Health concluded.

For further information, please contact:

  • Mr. Trịnh Ngọc Quang, National Centre for Health Education, Ministry of Health (Tel: 84-4-38328994, Email:
  • Ms. Nguyễn Thị Thanh Hương, Communication Officer, UN Communications (Tel: 84-4-39425705 - ext: 401; Email:
  • Ms. Vũ Thị Thu Hà, Alive & Thrive (A&T) PR and Advocacy specialist (Tel: 84(0)93 663 0589; Email:



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