UK medical journal hails breast-feeding
The Lancet, the leading medical research journal, is calling for positive social attitudes toward breast-feeding, stricter policy interventions and better regulation of the breast milk substitute industry to increase worldwide the practice for the health and economic benefits for women.
Mothers are 2.5 times more likely to breast-feed where breastfeeding is protected, promoted and supported, according to Robert Scherpbier, Chief of Health, Nutrition and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene of UNICEF China.
Breast-feeding rates can be dramatically increased in a very short time, with a package of actions, policies and programs to support mothers at health facilities, at home and at work, he said.
Scherpbier made the remark during the Lancet Breast-feeding Series Launch Event held in Beijing on Thursday.
The event was jointly held by China Development Research Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF and World Health Organization.
According to the Lancet, in addition to benefits for mother’s health, the estimated health benefits of breast-feeding could translate to reduced annual healthcare costs totaling $312 million in the US, $48 million in the UK and $30.3 million in urban China.
However, a growing body of evidence shows women worldwide do not have the support they need to breast-feed, as limited maternity protection policies prevent many from optimally breast-feeding, including short maternity leaves, gaps in knowledge and skills and family and cultural traditions.
The breast milk substitute industry has also undermined breast-feeding, with global breast milk substitutes sales between 2014 to 2019 projected to increase from $45 billion to $71 billion. Growth is expected to be highest in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa.
The government should not only disseminate accurate information on the value of breastfeeding
Success in breastfeeding is not the sole responsibility of a woman, the promotion of breast-feeding is a collective social responsibility.” Cao Bin, child health director of the Department of Maternal and Child Health of the National Health and Family Planning Commission
and foster a positive social attitude, but also regulate the breast milk substitute industry to reinforce a breast-feeding culture, it said.
According to Cao Bin, child health director of the Department of Maternal and Child Health of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, China has made substantial progress in reinforcing a breast-feeding culture in recent years.
“We have come up with consulting hotlines and growing mother and-baby rooms in public places to scale up the quality and coverage of care for women and their newborns,” said Cao.
“Success in breast-feeding is not the sole responsibility of awoman, the promotion of breast-feeding is a collective social responsibility.”
However, Cao also mentioned challenges and difficulties still lie ahead for a breastfeeding-friendly community in the country.
According to Scherpbier, rates of breast-feeding world wide have not substantially increased in the past two decades, and most countries are off track to meet the global target.
“China has played a role model in many fields,” said Scherpbier. “More countries need to invest in the policies and programs that support women’s breast-feeding decisions.”