The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have called for greater efforts to support breastfeeding, including providing counselling and support for women in health facilities.
The call to action coincided with World Breastfeeding Week and comes at a time when latest figures show just 41 per cent of infants were exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life in 2018, with the rates lowest in upper-middle-income countries. Furthermore, in 2018, less than half of babies worldwide – 43 per cent – were breastfed within the first hour of life.
It is estimated that increasing breastfeeding could prevent 823,000 annual deaths in children under five years and 20,000 annual deaths from breast cancer.
In a joint statement, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore called “for greater investments in comprehensive breastfeeding programmes, improved breastfeeding counselling and support for women in health facilities and the community.” They also called for an end to the promotion of breast-milk substitutes to enable parents to make informed decisions on the best way to feed their infants.
“Together, with the support of governments, employers and communities, we have the power to enable breastfeeding and support families in fostering a nurturing environment where all children thrive,” they said.