Image credits: Wes Hicks on Unsplash
News Article

Actions Are Necessary to Increase Breastfeeding

By Miriam Bello | Thu, 08/12/2021 - 10:23

Globally, about 830,000 deaths could be prevented if each newborn received breast milk in the first hours of life, according to Save The Children. A report by UNICEF found that health establishments, points of sale and advertising in Chihuahua and Puebla show clear violations of the Code of commercialization of breast milk substitutes. In Mexico, only 18 percent of children are breastfed in the first hour of life.

Breastfeeding is key in the fight against infant mortality as it promotes the development of children, especially those under one year of age. Breast milk provides all the energy, nutrients, and fluids that every baby needs for the first six months of his life. According to Save The Children, breast milk protects children against pneumonia and diarrhea, the two leading causes of infant death in underserved populations. Babies who are not breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhea than those who are exclusively breastfed.

Malnutrition is an underlying cause of one third of infant deaths and breastfeeding has a significant impact on the nutritional status of children. An insufficient diet leads to weight loss and a weakened immune system, which can cause childhood illnesses to be more serious and last longer.

There are also many economic benefits to breastfeeding. Households can make significant savings by not consuming formulas and equipment for artificial feeding, save water and fuel for the preparation and cleaning of bottles and reduce medical expenses due to fewer visits to doctors and hospitals because infants who are breastfed get sick less often. In addition, breastfeeding can reduce maternal mortality and reduce their risk of contracting breast or ovarian cancer.

Health systems can also obtain economic benefits by eliminating the import and distribution of artificial substitutes for breast milk. It can also bring them savings in health costs by preventing acute and chronic diseases. The country can also benefit by avoiding the ecological damage caused by the production of artificial breast milk substitutes, their distribution and disposal.

There are different determinants that influence the mother’s decision to breastfeed so public policies must be analyzed in detail to detect information gaps and provide support to every woman, states Save The Children.

UNICEF provided technical support to the Ministry of Health to make an amendment to the General Law on Health to guarantee breastfeeding during the first hour after delivery in all health centers. It is also encouraging the practice in public spaces without restrictions and prohibiting the use of infant formula.

Save The Children’s report, based on UNICEF’s International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes in Mexico, urges clear monitoring and sanctions of unfair marketing of breast milk substitutes, as they contribute to the decrease in lactation rates.

Photo by:   Wes Hicks on Unsplash
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst