"Latin America and the Caribbean is among the regions with the highest global averages for breastfeeding, yet much remains to be done if we are to achieve the goal of exclusively breastfeeding 50 per cent of all babies during the first six months of life", said Ruben Grajeda, PAHO's Regional Advisor on Nutrition.
Infants deprived of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of their life could suffer malnutrition, frequent diarrhea, pneumonia and other life threatening diseases including hampered brain development, said Dr SK Roy. A new report has found that almost 60 percent of the babies are not breast fed within the first hour after their birth. It is easier to lose lower body fat for the mothers who breastfeed as compared to those who formula feed their babies.
"Capture the Moment", which analyses data from 76 countries, finds that despite the importance of early initiation of breastfeeding, too many newborns are left waiting too long for different reasons.
It says that only 0.6 per cent births occur at baby friendly hospitals in Bangladesh. According to research published in Lancet, 22,000 deaths from breast cancer could be prevented worldwide annually with increased breastfeeding.
Of the 129 countries whose data is available, only 22 now meet this target. Due to this, the baby finds it hard to attach to the breast.
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Traditional birth attendants (TBAs) can be champions for breastfeeding. Babies who are not breastfed are more likely to develop common childhood illnesses like ear infections and diarrhea as well as chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, asthma and childhood obesity.
The SA Breast Milk Reserve has said only a third of South African children under 6 months old were exclusively breastfed.
The WHO and UNICEF in April this year issued a 10-step guidance to increase support for breastfeeding in health facilities that provide maternity and newborn services, saying breastfeeding all babies for the first two years will save the lives of more than 820,000 children under age five, globally, annually.
In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, the new report urges governments, donors and other decision-makers to adopt strong legal measures to restrict the marketing of infant formula and other breast milk substitutes. "The appropriate care of both new born and mother in the moments after birth is critical to ensuring that breastfeeding not only begins but continues successfully".
"Breastfeeding gives children the best possible start in life", says the WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"We must urgently scale up support to mothers - be it from family members, healthcare workers, employers and governments, so they can give their children the start they deserve", he said.