UN agencies and partners urge countries to improve breastfeeding rates

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Mother and child’s bond during the breastfeeding. As a working mother, Fiona managed to breastfeed her baby for 28 months, with the support of her family. Photo: UNICEF/UNI166592/Liu

Despite the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers, no country in the world fully meets recommended standards for the practice.

The finding comes in a "scorecard" published on Tuesday by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with an initiative to boost breastfeeding rates, known as the Global Breastfeeding Collective.

It was launched at the start of World Breastfeeding Week, observed annually from 1-7 August.

Dianne Penn reports.

Breastfeeding gives babies "the best possible start in life," according to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

It provides cognitive and health benefits for both infants and mothers.

For example, breastfeeding is especially critical during a child's first six months of life, preventing killers such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, while women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

Yet, the Global Breastfeeding Scorecard found that of 194 countries evaluated, only 40 per cent of children below six months old, were exclusively breastfed.

Meanwhile, only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates over 60 per cent.

The partners said investing less than US$5 per new-born would increase the exclusive breastfeeding rates for infants by 50 per cent by 2025.

They called on countries to increase funding to raise breastfeeding rates from birth through two years.

Other recommendations include improving access to skilled breastfeeding counselling and enacting paid family leave and workplace breastfeeding policies.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1'14"

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