Washington, D. C. – The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is calling for renewed commitment from all sectors of society to improve implementation of the WHO/UNICEF Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. This call for action comes at the start of World Breastfeeding Week 2012 (August 1-7).
To highlight this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, PAHO/WHO has developed a policy brief summarizing the implementation of the Global Strategy in the Region of the Americas and its relationship to breastfeeding trends. PAHO has also developed a poster entitled “For You It’s Milk. For Your Baby, Life.” These materials are available through PAHO’s headquarters, offices in each country and at www.paho.org/childnutrition.
Although breastfeeding has been increasing in many countries in the Americas, much remains to be done to optimize breastfeeding practices. In most countries of the Americas, fewer than half of babies begin breastfeeding within the first hour of life, as recommended by PAHO/WHO. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months–also recommended–is low, ranging from 8 percent to 68 percent of babies in different countries of Latin America.
Also, the vast majority of babies and young children do not benefit from optimal complementary feeding. Nearly 20 percent do not receive solid, semi-solid or soft foods between 6 and 9 months of age, as recommended by PAHO/WHO. Only 28 percent of young children in Haiti and 81 percent in Peru receive a minimum dietary diversity. Only 46 percent of young children in Haiti and 78 percent in Peru receive a minimum meal frequency.
“We need to improve both breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices by creating strong and supportive public health policies and programs,” said PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses.
This year’s World Breastfeeding Week, whose theme is “Understanding the Past, Planning the Future-Celebrating 10 Years of WHO/UNICEF’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding,” highlights progress toward the strategy’s implementation in countries around the world.
Breastfeeding is the single most effective intervention for preventing deaths among children under 5. Research shows that about 20 percent of neonatal (under age 1 month) deaths could be prevented if all newborns began breastfeeding during the first hour of life.
In addition, children who are breastfed for seven to nine months have on average six points higher IQ than children who are breastfed for less than a month. Breastfeeding also helps mothers lose weight and reduces their risk of breast and ovarian cancer as well as type 2 diabetes.
PAHO, which celebrates its 110th anniversary this year, is the oldest public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.