WHO Highlights the Importance of Breastfeeding

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Posted on 8/1/2013

Newborn children born in developing nations face many hardships. Food scarcity is one of the greatest challenges families living in poverty must endure, and some women with newborn children do not know about the health benefits breastfeeding provides. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated Aug. 1-7 as World Breastfeeding Week, and many groups advocating pre- and postnatal health are working together to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding.

The Best Food for Newborns

Nutrition is one of the most important issues facing mothers and their children in developing nations. Data from the WHO finds that only 38 percent of newborns worldwide are exclusively breastfed until the suggested age of 6 months and that only around one third of infants receive the complementary nutritious foods they need to grow up healthy. More than 220,000 children's lives could be saved every year if breastfeeding were promoted more widely and complementary food and supplements were provided.

In addition to providing newborns with the essential nutrients they need to survive, breast milk offers a range of other health benefits. Breastfed children have stronger immune systems and are much more resistant to chronic infections and disease. Breast milk promotes cognitive and sensory development, helps children recover more quickly from illnesses and exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life can substantially reduce the likelihood of infant mortality.

Supporting New Mothers

As beneficial as breastfeeding is, mothers need support to start and maintain healthy breastfeeding practices. This is especially important in developing nations, as even the most basic health care is often out of reach for many women.

ChildFund works in some of the poorest countries in the world, and advocating for and supporting women's health is one of our top priorities. Nutrition is especially crucial for newborns, as the years between birth and the age of 5 are the most vital in terms of physical and cognitive development. Children who get the nutrients they need are much more likely to survive, which is a major reason why ChildFund places so much emphasis on maternal health and early child development.

Senegal is just one country where ChildFund has worked to improve maternal health and reduce infant mortality. ChildFund-supported health huts have expanded access to health care in some of the country's most deprived communities, with an emphasis on protecting the health of vulnerable mothers and young children. Although these centers allow sick people to receive care near their homes, spreading education about healthy practices and preventive care are also important priorities. Expectant and new mothers receive information on the benefits of breastfeeding their children, and learn more about basic nutrition and how to keep themselves and their babies healthy.

Raising Awareness

With so many benefits, it's easy to see why the WHO would make such a concerted effort to raise awareness of breastfeeding around the world. One of the WHO's goals is to increase the number of exclusively breastfed newborns worldwide to 50 percent by 2025.

During World Breastfeeding Week, even if you're not a nursing mother, there are many ways you can get involved. As awareness is such a key part of the initiative, why not spread the word about the importance of breastfeeding with your social network? Our Facebook and Twitter profiles are regularly updated to provide you with the latest news about our work and events like World Breastfeeding Week.

Another way you can help is by making a donation to our Children's Greatest Needs fund. Supporting efforts to provide health care and education to expectant mothers is an important part of what we do around the world, and by donating to this fund, you can help us reach even more mothers and their children.