While the benefits of breastfeeding for both children and mothers are extensive, policies that support nursing, particularly in workplaces, are not yet available to most mothers worldwide, the Head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.
“The health, social and economic benefits of breastfeeding — for mother and child — are well-established and accepted throughout the world,” according to UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore. “Yet, nearly 60 percent of the world’s infants are missing out on the recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding.”
From supporting healthy brain development in babies and young children, protecting infants against infection, decreasing the risk of obesity and disease, reducing healthcare costs and protecting nursing mothers against ovarian cancer and breast cancer, the benefits are widespread.
“We need far greater investment in paid parental leave and breastfeeding support across all workplaces to increase breastfeeding rates globally,” Fore underscored.
From 1 to 7 August each year, World Breastfeeding Week highlights the critical importance of nursing for children across the globe.
This year, the commemoration is accompanied by a fact sheet with new data from the 2019 Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which revealed, that only four out of 10 babies in 2018 were exclusively breastfed.
Babies in rural areas were breastfed more than for their urban counterparts and at 23.9 percent, upper-middle-income countries had the lowest breastfeeding rates.
UNICEF recommends regular lactation breaks during working hours to accommodate breastfeeding or expressing breastmilk, along with a supportive environment, which includes facilities that enable mothers to continue breastfeeding for six months, followed by age-appropriate complementary breastfeeding.