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No Country Meets Recommended Guidelines On Breastfeeding

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Not a single country in the world supports breastfeeding mothers according to recommended guidelines, a new report released by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

WHO and UNICEF state that mothers should breastfeed newborns within an hour after they are born, exclusively for six months, and then continue breastfeeding while adding complementary foods until the child has grown to two years old. Breastfeeding provides plenty of health benefits, most importantly in improving a baby’s immune system, USA Today reports.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said,

Breastmilk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive.

The groups compared breastfeeding rates around the world and found that there were none measuring 100% on its Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which was released at the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week.

On the whole, less than 44% of reports say that mothers breastfeed their babies within the first hour of birth. Only 23 countries said that 60% of their mothers exclusively breastfed at six months onwards: Bolivia, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Micronesia, Federated States of Nauru, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, São Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Timor-Leste, Uganda, Vanuatu and Zambia.

Laurence Grummer-Strawn, technical officer with the World Health Organization, said that the USA scored several “failing grades” in this matter. Breastfeeding rates here were considerably lower than the average, as less than 25% of American mothers reported exclusively breastfeeding in an infant’s first six months.

In addition, the USA has no paid maternity leave, and only 18% of hospitals supported the recommended breastfeeding practices. There is also no regulation on how baby formula is marketed in the USA, which could lead moms to think that formula is a good substitute, Grummer-Strawn said.

Worldwide, only 12% of countries meet International Labour Organization’s recommendations regarding paid maternity leave of 18 weeks, 100% of which should be taken from public funds.

Grummer-Strawn noted, “This is actually the first time ever that these data have been compiled and put together in one place so that we can compare across countries throughout the world. The results of the scorecard present a daunting reality.”

He added, “Many people understand the importance of breastfeeding, but too often they assume that responsibility can be placed entirely on the mother. They don’t give consideration to the political, social and environmental factors that actually shape breastfeeding.”

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