Most mothers are misguided about breastfeeding
WHO reports that most infants around the world are not receiving proper breastfeeding diets and discourages breastfeeding substitutes.
Newborns should be on exclusive breastfeeding diets for the first six months. Doctors, midwives and healthcare professionals have repeatedly touted the numerous and documented benefits of breastfeeding and yet many mothers still choose breast-milk substitutes.
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that only 37 out of 199 countries have passed laws reflecting the recommendations of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk substitutes. This is particularly worrying for poorer countries as companies aggressively market breast-milk substitutes to mothers who can ill-afford it on health or financial grounds.
Implementation of the code
According to WHO, only one in five countries fully implements the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Specifically:
- 69 countries (35 per cent) completely prohibit the advertising of breast-milk substitutes.
- 62 countries (32 per cent) completely prohibit free samples or low-cost supplies for health services.
- 83 countries (42 per cent) require messages to allow people to be aware of why breastfeeding provides better nourishment than breast-milk substitutes.
- 45 countries (only 23 per cent) report having a functioning implementation and monitoring system.
Many mothers around the world remain confused and misguided about the best type of nourishment for their newborn babies. Given the misleading advertising, dubious health claims and attractive information packs, these findings are not surprising.
“Nearly all mothers are physically able to breastfeed and will do so if they have accurate information and support,” says breastfeeding expert with WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development Dr Carmen Casanovas. “But in many cases, women are discouraged from doing so, and are misled to believe that they are giving their children a better start in life by buying commercial substitutes.”
WHO has been increasingly concerned about the inaccurate information on breastfeeding, particularly in light of the aggressive marketing by the breast-milk substitute industry in recent years.
Dr. Casanovas also said, “Full implementation of the Code is vital for reducing or eliminating all forms of promotion of breast-milk substitutes, including direct and indirect promotion to pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children.”
Why should infants be on breastfeeding diets
Along with the report, WHO has reiterated the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for newborns. Breast-milk gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development, and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Moreover, breast-milk is available on demand, free, contains antibodies and ensures adequate nutrition for infants. Infants who are exclusively breastfed for six months may be less prone to diabetes and perform better in intelligence tests.
To top it off, breastfeeding is also advantageous to mothers. Exclusive breastfeeding is associated with a natural method of birth control (98 per cent protection in the first six months). Breastfeeding also reduces the risks of breast and ovarian cancer later in life and allows women to return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster.
Learn more about why breastfeeding diets are better than formula milk
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