The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) voiced an alarm at the decline of breastfeeding across East Asia, and stressed the need to ensure that mothers understand the long-term benefits of this important practice for the survival and development of their children.
According to the agency, evidence shows that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life not only improves their future growth and educational achievement, but also significantly reduces national health costs and helps prevent chronic malnutrition.
As little as five per cent of all mothers breastfeed in Thailand, while around ten per cent do so in Viet Nam. In China, only 28 per cent of babies are breastfed.
“Mothers across the region face increasing demands on their time, often have to return to work early after childbirth, and may have limited opportunities to breastfeed or express their milk in the workplace,” said UNICEF’s Nutrition Advisor for East Asia and the Pacific, France Begin.
“At the same time, baby food companies are targeting the fast-growing economies in East Asia with aggressive marketing campaigns, persuading mothers to give up breastfeeding and purchase their products despite the drawbacks for their children,” she added.
UNICEF calls on baby food companies to adhere to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The Code does not ban the sale of formulas, only the marketing practices that entice mothers to replace their breastmilk with commercial substitutes while it is working wiht businesses in the region to guarantee that women can enjoy the right to adequate maternity leave and nursing breaks. the agency said in a press release.
“When companies adhere to the Code of Marketing it will be easier for mothers to make an informed choice,” noted Ms. Begin. “No formula can substitute the importance of breastmilk for children’s survival, growth and development.