11 May 2018
This report from UNICEF shares new analysis on breastfeeding practices around the world and sets out key recommendations for governments, the private sector, civil society and communities in low-, middle- and high-income countries to increase breastfeeding rates.
The report highlights breastfeeding as one of the most effective ways to protect maternal and child health and promote healthy growth and optimal development in early childhood. Improving breastfeeding rates around the world could save the lives of more than 820,000 children under age 5 every year, the majority under 6 months of age, and prevent 20,000 maternal deaths from breast cancer.
Despite this, breastfeeding rates worldwide remain low, particularly in high-income countries – more than 1 in 5 babies in high-income countries are never breastfed, compared to 1 in 25 in low- and middle-income countries. The report’s recommendations to improve breastfeeding rates include implementing the Baby Friendly Initiative in hospitals, strengthening links between health services and communities to ensure continued breastfeeding support, and developing supportive parental leave policies in the private sector.
Breastfeeding in the UK
The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, and breastfeeding is a highly emotive subject because so many families have not breastfed, or have experienced the trauma of trying very hard to breastfeed and not succeeding. It is time to stop laying the blame for the UK’s low breastfeeding rates in the laps of individual women and instead acknowledge that this is a public health imperative for which government, policy makers, communities and families all share responsibility.
Unicef UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative has made great strides in improving standards of care for mothers and babies across the UK. For example, 100% of hospitals in Scotland are now accredited as Baby Friendly and their breastfeeding rates have notably improved, with 43% of infants now receiving breastmilk at six months, compared to 32% in the 2010 Infant Feeding Survey. Unicef UK urges the UK and devolved governments to build on this progress by implementing four key actions to create a supportive, enabling environment for women who want to breastfeed:
- Develop a National Infant Feeding Strategy
- Protect, promote and support breastfeeding in all policy areas
- Implement evidence-based initiatives to support breastfeeding
- Protect babies and families from commercial interests by implementing, in full, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
Find out more in our Call to Action campaign.