UNICEF, WHO issue new guidelines on breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding all babies for the first two years would save the lives of more than 820,000 children under age 5 annually

PIC: WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Credit: AFP)

HEALTH | BREASTFEEDING

UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO) have issued 10 new guidelines to increase support for breastfeeding in health facilities that provide maternity and newborn services.

Breastfeeding all babies for the first two years would save the lives of more than 820,000 children under age 5 annually.

The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding underpin the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative, which both organisations launched in 1991. The practical guidance encourages new mothers to breastfeed and informs health workers how best to support breastfeeding, according to a press release issued on Wednesday.

They include discussing the importance and management of breastfeeding with pregnant women and their families, facilitating immediate and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact and support mothers to initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth.

Also, there is supporting mothers to initiate and maintain breastfeeding and manage common difficulties, and not providing breastfed newborns any food or fluids other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.

Further, enable mothers and their infants are to remain together and to practice rooming-in 24 hours a day, support mothers to recognise and respond to their infants’ cues for feeding and counsel mothers on the use and risks of feeding bottles, teats and pacifiers.

They require complying fully with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly resolutions, having a written infant feeding policy that is routinely communicated to staff and parents. There is also ensuring that staff have sufficient knowledge, competence and skills to support breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding saves lives. Its benefits help keep babies healthy in their first days and last well into adulthood,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta H. Fore said. However, she noted that it requires support, encouragement and guidance.

“With these basic steps, implemented properly, we can significantly improve breastfeeding rates around the world and give children the best possible start in life,” she added.

WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in many hospitals and communities around the world, whether a child can be breastfed or not can make the difference between life and death. He said this will determine whether a child will develop to reach his or her full potential.

“Hospitals are not there just to cure the ill. They are there to promote life and ensure people can thrive and live their lives to their full potential,” he said. 

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