Virtually every mother can breastfeed, if given appropriate support, advice and encouragement, as well as practical assistance to resolve any problems.
Studies have shown that early skin to skin contact between mothers and babies, frequent and unrestricted breast feeding to ensure continued production of milk and help with positioning and attaching the baby increase the chances of breast feeding being successful.
Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of chronic conditions later in life, such as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, childhood asthma and childhood leukaemias.
Studies have shown that breastfed infants do better on intelligence and behaviour tests into adulthood than formula-fed babies.
An exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child, and breastfeeding drastically reduces deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea, two major child killers (Lancet 2008).
Yet, less than half of the world’s newborns benefit from early breastfeeding and even fewer are exclusively breastfed for the first six months.
There are also millions more women working in the informal, seasonal or part-time economy who face even greater barriers to breastfeeding.
They need strong family and community support to manage the demands of work and breastfeeding their babies.
Breastfeeding gives children the healthiest start in life and is one of the simplest, smartest and most cost-effective ways we have of ensuring that all children survive and thrive.
The theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is ‘Women and work – Let’s make it work’ which emphasizes the need for better support systems and policies to enable working mothers to breastfeed.While breastfeeding rates are no longer declining at the global level, with many countries experiencing significant increases in the last decade, only 39 per cent of children less than six months of age in the developing world are exclusively breastfed and just 58 per cent of 20-23 month olds benefit from the practice of continued breastfeeding.