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‘Breastfeeding could save 820,000 children every year’

August 6, 2020

By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has stated that breastfeeding could save the lives of 820,000 children every year and possibly generates US $302 billion in additional income.

“Improving access to skilled counselling for breastfeeding can extend the duration of breastfeeding and promote exclusive breastfeeding, with benefits for babies, families and economies. Indeed, analysis indicates that increasing rates of exclusive breastfeeding could save the lives of 820,000 children every year, generating US $302 billion in additional income,” a joint message from UNICEF and WHO.

As the world is observing breastfeeding week, UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta H. Fore and World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, issued out a joint statement in observance of the week with the theme “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”.

They said breastfeeding provides every child with the best possible start in life and delivers health, nutritional and emotional benefits to both children and mothers.

 They said it also forms part of a sustainable food system, adding  that breastfeeding is a natural process that is not always easy hence mothers need support – both to get started and to sustain the process.

They said skilled counselling services can ensure that mothers and families receive support, along with the information, the advice, and the reassurance they need to nourish their babies optimally.

The joint statement further noted that breastfeeding counselling can help mothers to build confidence while respecting their individual circumstances and choices, and that counselling can empower women to overcome challenges and prevent feeding and care practices that may interfere with optimal breastfeeding, such as the provision of unnecessary liquids, foods, and breastmilk substitutes to infants and young children.

They said  skilled breastfeeding counselling can be provided by different actors including health care professionals, lactation counsellors and peer support providers, and in a variety of settings– in health facilities or clinics, through home visits or community programmes, in person or remotely.

They said during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more important to find innovative solutions to ensure that access to those essential services is not disrupted and that families continue to receive the breastfeeding counselling they need.

They called on governments to invest  to make skilled breastfeeding counselling available to every woman, and that ensuring availability of skilled breastfeeding counselling to every woman will require increased financing for breastfeeding programmes and improved monitoring and implementation of policies, programmes and services.

 They also called on government to train health care workers, including midwives and nurses, to deliver skilled breastfeeding counselling to mothers and families, ensure that counselling is made available as part of routine health and nutrition services that are easily accessible.

They further called that government collaborate with civil society and health professional associations, building strong collaborative systems for  the provision of appropriate counselling and protect health care workers from the influence of the baby food industry.

They said together, through commitment, concerted action and collaboration, they can ensure that every mother has access to skilled breastfeeding counselling, empowering her to give her baby the best possible start in life.

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