Increased support for breastfeeding is "public health imperative"

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Sumi Madhi a volunteer on child feeding, nutrition and care interacts with mothers in Kudada, India. Photo: UNICEF/Prashanth Vishwanathan

Increased support worldwide for breastfeeding babies is a "public health imperative".

That's the message from the World Health Organization, WHO, at the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week 2016.

WHO has established a global target of having 50% of infants under six months of age being breastfed exclusively by 2030, and says that the healthy practice needs to be promoted "in particular" among poor and vulnerable groups.

Deganit Perez has more.

WHO says that breastfeeding is the best way to provide infants with the nutrients they need, and it recommends exclusive feeding, starting within one hour of birth.

The UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, warns that around 77 million of the world's newborns, or 50%, are not fed fast enough, depriving them of essential nutrients and antibodies.

UNICEF said that if all babies had nothing but breast milk until six months, then 800,000 lives would be saved every year.

World Breastfeeding Week will be marked in 170 countries around the world to offer support and encouragement to mothers, WHO said, and it added that women in paid work should be helped to continue breastfeeding through incentives like paid maternity leave and part-time work arrangements.

Breast milk provides all the nutrients and fluids a baby needs during the first six months, and continues to be an "essential source of nutrition" until the age of two and beyond, said WHO.

Deganit Perez, United Nations.

Duration: 58″

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