The World Health Organization (WHO) today introduced a new strategy to promote breastfeeding in the world, a practice that, despite its proven benefits for both women and newborns, is far from being the preferred choice for women. mothers
Only 40% of babies up to six months receive breast milk exclusively, an even lower percentage in many high-income countries, where milk formula enjoys great popularity, recognized the organization’s specialist, Laurence Grummer-Strawn.
WHO, together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), presented a guide with ten concrete steps aimed at encouraging and supporting new mothers in their breastfeeding experience.
The guide includes the adoption by the maternal and child centers of a clear policy of support for breastfeeding, the training of health personnel, the accompaniment and advice to women in labor and the conditioning to avoid separation of the baby and the mother during the first hours and days of life.
These series of recommendations are an update of the previous ones, which date back thirty years and have had a relative application.
One of the great novelties is that breastfeeding is now encouraged within the first hour after birth, even in the case of premature babies, low birth weight or some other type of complication, explained Grummer-Strawn in a wheel of the press
One of the cornerstones of WHO’s strategy to promote breastfeeding in recent decades has been the “children-friendly hospitals” initiative, where most of the steps included in the plan presented today are already applied.
However, Grummer-Strawn acknowledged that only 10% of maternal units are recognized as such, partly because it requires the implementation of voluntary measures and that they can be expensive, so now the goal is to universalize this concept.
One of the options considered by WHO is that the “friends of children” qualification be included in the certification process that hospitals and other health centers must comply with in order to function.
Breast milk is an important source of energy and nutrients for children beyond the first six months of life, in which the exclusive diet should be.
Between six and twelve months of life contributes half of the needs in calories and a third between twelve and twenty-four months.
The WHO estimates that breastfeeding prevents the death each year of about 820,000 children under the age of five, since it limits the danger of infections, and in the long term also reduces the risk of obesity by 30% and the risk of suffering from diabetes by 35 %.
Although it is paradoxical, it is in high-income countries where there are “greater barriers” to breastfeeding, due among other factors to a medical staff with an “interventionist” mentality or because the newborn is removed from the mother to wash it.
WHO, however, made it clear that its strategy is not about “forcing” a woman to choose to breastfeed if she prefers to give up or make her feel guilty for that choice, but rather that each mother has all the information right at your fingertips.
About the rejection in certain societies to the scene of a mother breastfeeding a child of two or more years, the WHO encourages women who so wish to continue breastfeeding after that age.
“You have to stop judging mothers in either way, either because they do not breastfeed or because they do it for a long time,” said Grummer-Strawn.
The expert also acknowledged the role of the advertising of formula milk in the stagnation of breastfeeding rates, through figures that show the economic importance of this product.
If in 2014 the sale of that milk generated revenues of 44,000 million dollars worldwide, by 2019 it will reach 70,000 million, according to forecasts.