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CARPHA recommends more breastfeeding

“There­fore, breast­feed­ing is recog­nised as an ef­fec­tive strat­e­gy in achiev­ing re­gion­al and glob­al goals on health, nu­tri­tion, food se­cu­ri­ty, eco­nom­ic growth and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

YV3191

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) and Unit­ed Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund (UNICEF) rec­om­mend that breast­feed­ing be ini­ti­at­ed with­in 1 hour of birth, con­tin­ued ex­clu­sive­ly for the first 6 months of life, and that nu­tri­tion­al­ly-ad­e­quate and safe com­ple­men­tary (sol­id) foods be in­tro­duced at 6 months to­geth­er with con­tin­ued breast­feed­ing up to 2 years of age or be­yond.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

Ear­ly ini­ti­a­tion of breast­feed­ing is crit­i­cal to new­born sur­vival, re­duc­ing their risk of mor­bid­i­ty and mor­tal­i­ty. Breast­milk pro­vides op­ti­mal nu­tri­tion for in­fants for their phys­i­cal and men­tal growth and de­vel­op­ment, along with an­ti­bod­ies to pre­vent and mit­i­gate child­hood ill­ness­es

Breast­feed­ing re­duces the risk of over-nu­tri­tion (over­weight and obe­si­ty) and non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases (NCDs) for both moth­er and child. In­fants that are breast­fed longer, have 13% low­er risk of over­weight and obe­si­ty and 35% low­er risk of type 2 di­a­betes. Women who breast­feed have re­duced risks of post­par­tum over­weight and obe­si­ty, 32% low­er risk of type 2 di­a­betes, 37% low­er risk of ovar­i­an can­cer and 26% low­er risk of breast can­cer4

Ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing for 6 months ben­e­fits the in­fant, moth­er, fam­i­ly, com­mu­ni­ty, coun­try and en­vi­ron­ment,” states Dr Joy St. John, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor at the Caribbean Pub­lic Health Agency (CARPHA).

“There­fore, breast­feed­ing is recog­nised as an ef­fec­tive strat­e­gy in achiev­ing re­gion­al and glob­al goals on health, nu­tri­tion, food se­cu­ri­ty, eco­nom­ic growth and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

YV3191

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) and Unit­ed Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund (UNICEF) rec­om­mend that breast­feed­ing be ini­ti­at­ed with­in 1 hour of birth, con­tin­ued ex­clu­sive­ly for the first 6 months of life, and that nu­tri­tion­al­ly-ad­e­quate and safe com­ple­men­tary (sol­id) foods be in­tro­duced at 6 months to­geth­er with con­tin­ued breast­feed­ing up to 2 years of age or be­yond.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

Ear­ly ini­ti­a­tion of breast­feed­ing is crit­i­cal to new­born sur­vival, re­duc­ing their risk of mor­bid­i­ty and mor­tal­i­ty. Breast­milk pro­vides op­ti­mal nu­tri­tion for in­fants for their phys­i­cal and men­tal growth and de­vel­op­ment, along with an­ti­bod­ies to pre­vent and mit­i­gate child­hood ill­ness­es

Breast­feed­ing re­duces the risk of over-nu­tri­tion (over­weight and obe­si­ty) and non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases (NCDs) for both moth­er and child. In­fants that are breast­fed longer, have 13% low­er risk of over­weight and obe­si­ty and 35% low­er risk of type 2 di­a­betes. Women who breast­feed have re­duced risks of post­par­tum over­weight and obe­si­ty, 32% low­er risk of type 2 di­a­betes, 37% low­er risk of ovar­i­an can­cer and 26% low­er risk of breast can­cer4.

In Latin Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean, many in­fants and young chil­dren do not meet the WHO and UNICEF rec­om­men­da­tions for breast­feed­ing and ul­ti­mate­ly lose out on its many ben­e­fits. On­ly 54% of in­fants ini­ti­ate breast­feed­ing with­in 1 hour of birth; 37% breast­feed ex­clu­sive­ly for the first 6 months of life which is be­low the glob­al rate (44%); and be­tween 31%-55% of chil­dren con­tin­ue to re­ceive breast­milk up to 2 years of age2

Breast­feed­ing, more so when oc­cur­ring ex­clu­sive­ly, al­lows for health­i­er moth­ers and chil­dren who can in turn con­tribute mean­ing­ful­ly to the com­mu­ni­ty and so­ci­ety at large. There is a re­duced tax bur­den on com­mu­ni­ties and gov­ern­ments to en­sure chil­dren are prop­er­ly fed. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, more fund­ing is made avail­able for com­mu­ni­ty and na­tion­al de­vel­op­ment. Re­ports in­di­cate that the to­tal glob­al eco­nom­ic loss­es of not breast­feed­ing are es­ti­mat­ed to be US$341.3 bil­lion

Breast­feed­ing is a nat­u­ral­ly re­new­able re­source that is en­vi­ron­men­tal­ly sus­tain­able as it does not re­quire the use of nat­ur­al re­sources (not even wa­ter!), pro­vides no waste for ac­cu­mu­la­tion in land­fills (no pack­ag­ing or dis­pos­al), and it does not pol­lute the en­vi­ron­ment

Breast­feed­ing al­so con­tributes to in­fant and house­hold food se­cu­ri­ty. In­fants who are breast­fed ex­clu­sive­ly, re­quire no oth­er source of nu­tri­tion and are less like­ly to get sick there­by less­en­ing the fi­nan­cial bur­den on the fam­i­ly. This al­lows for nu­tri­tious foods to be bought for oth­er mem­bers of the fam­i­ly. This is es­pe­cial­ly im­por­tant dur­ing times of eco­nom­ic crises, such as those ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, where many house­holds face un­em­ploy­ment and loss of in­come. The pan­dem­ic has proven to be a glob­al threat to breast­feed­ing. Two re­cent stud­ies in West­ern coun­tries re­port­ed a de­cline in ear­ly ini­ti­a­tion, ex­clu­sive and con­tin­ued breast­feed­ing rates due to the pan­dem­ic, with one ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tor be­ing a loss in sup­port for moth­ers

Breast­feed­ing is par­tic­u­lar­ly ef­fec­tive against in­fec­tious dis­eases be­cause it strength­ens the im­mune sys­tem by trans­fer­ring an­ti­bod­ies from the moth­er to the child. Moth­er-to-child trans­mis­sion of SARS-CoV-2 through breast­milk has not been found to oc­cur. The WHO and UNICEF rec­om­men­da­tions on ini­ti­a­tion and con­tin­u­a­tion of breast­feed­ing in­fants and young chil­dren al­so ap­ply to moth­ers with sus­pect­ed or con­firmed coro­n­avirus dis­ease as the ben­e­fits far out­weigh any po­ten­tial risks. Moth­ers with sus­pect­ed or con­firmed COVID-19 are en­cour­aged to prac­tice res­pi­ra­to­ry hy­giene (wear­ing a mask when breast­feed­ing), hand hy­giene (fre­quent hand wash­ing, in­clud­ing be­fore and af­ter touch­ing the ba­by), and rou­tine­ly clean and dis­in­fect sur­faces. If the moth­er is too un­well to breast­feed, she can be sup­port­ed to feed ex­pressed breast­milk or to relac­tate (re-in­tro­duce breast­feed­ing af­ter a pe­ri­od of ces­sa­tion)

This year’s theme for World Breast­feed­ing Week “Step up for Breast­feed­ing – Ed­u­cate and Sup­port” is aligned with the­mat­ic area 1 of the WBW-Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals 2030 cam­paign which high­lights the links be­tween breast­feed­ing and good nu­tri­tion, food se­cu­ri­ty and re­duc­tion of in­equal­i­ties. It will fo­cus on strength­en­ing the ca­pac­i­ty of ac­tors that have to pro­tect, pro­mote and sup­port breast­feed­ing across dif­fer­ent lev­els of so­ci­ety

We all form part of the warm chain of sup­port of breast­feed­ing – whether we are from or rep­re­sent gov­ern­ments, health sys­tems, work­places or com­mu­ni­ties – and have a shared re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect, pro­mote and sup­port breast­feed­ing. Let us all in­form, an­chor, en­gage and gal­vanise ac­tion to pro­tect and sup­port breast­feed­ing. A whole-of-so­ci­ety ap­proach is need­ed to fa­cil­i­tate the de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­gion­al breast­feed­ing poli­cies and cre­at­ing a breast­feed­ing-friend­ly en­vi­ron­ment

This is in keep­ing with the Caribbean Pub­lic Health Agency’s (CARPHA) life course ap­proach for the pre­ven­tion of NCDs of which breast­feed­ing is a key fac­tor. CARPHA sup­ports breast­feed­ing as a long-term strat­e­gy for a more pro­duc­tive and health­i­er Re­gion and en­cour­ages moth­ers and fam­i­lies to see breast­feed­ing as the op­ti­mal feed­ing method for in­fants

CARPHA has led train­ing in the WHO/UNICEF 40-Hour Breast­feed­ing Coun­selling Course; and train­ing of Health Pro­fes­sion­als in the 20-Hour Course for Ba­by Friend­ly Hos­pi­tal Ini­tia­tive as well as im­ple­men­ta­tion and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. The Agency has al­so sup­port­ed Mem­ber States with the de­vel­op­ment of Na­tion­al In­fant and Young Child Feed­ing Poli­cies, Hos­pi­tal Breast­feed­ing Poli­cies and de­vel­oped guide­lines for any­one in­volved in the care and man­age­ment of new­borns, and preg­nant or lac­tat­ing women sus­pect­ed of or con­firmed to be in­fect­ed with the COVID-19 virus.