On World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF joins global partners in calling for the benefits of breastfeeding to be broadcast beyond clinics and delivery rooms to the public at large, ensuring that young people both in the developing world and in wealthier countries understand the importance of breastfeeding long before they become parents.
Breastfeeding is directly linked to reducing the death toll of children under five, yet only 36% of infants under six months old in developing countries are exclusively breastfed. In the Philippines, only 34% of mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for 6 months, and the number drops to 2% when the child turns one year. One of the factors is the lack of a strong enabling environment that supports breastfeeding mothers.
“With so much at stake, we need to do more to reach women with a simple, powerful message: Breastfeeding can save your baby’s life,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “No other preventive intervention is more cost effective in reducing the number of children who die before reaching their fifth birthdays.”
The powerful benefits of breastfeeding for child survival, growth and development are well known. Scientific evidence has shown that breastfeeding could lead to a 13% reduction in deaths of children under five if infants were exclusively breastfed for 6 months and continued to be breastfed up to two years.
Breastfeeding also plays an important role in preventing stunting (low height for age), a condition that can cause irreversible physical and cognitive damage, and which is viewed as a key indicator reflecting inequities in society. Given its critical importance, UNICEF firmly supports all efforts to accelerate comprehensive action to improve breastfeeding rates globally, in every country and with a particular focus on reaching the most disadvantaged and hard-to-reach populations.