7.6 million babies are not breastfed each year: UNICEF

Breastfeeding could save the lives of more than 820000 children under age five, especially those under 6 months of age, annually.


Created On: May 11, 2018 13:27 ISTModified On: May 11, 2018 13:28 IST
7.6 million babies are not breastfed each year: UNICEF

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on May 10, 2018 released a report titled ‘Breastfeeding: A Mother’s Gift, for Every Child’, claiming that over 7.6 million babies are not breastfed each year.

Despite the fact that breastmilk saves lives, protects babies and mothers against deadly diseases and leads to better intellectual and educational outcomes, 21 percent of babies are never breastfed in high-income countries and in low-and-middle-income countries, the rate is 4 percent.

The report was launched just before the Mother’s Day that will be held on May 13, 2018

Recommendations of UNICEF and WHO

Initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of life.

Exclusive breastfeeding, without any additional food or even water, for the first six months of newborn.

Children should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.

Breastfeed often on demand as the child wants, day and night.

Highlights of the report

• Babies are much more likely to be breastfed at least once in low- and-middle-income countries like Bhutan (99 percent), Madagascar (99 percent) and Peru (99 percent) than those born in Ireland (55 percent) the United States (74 percent) or Spain (77 percent).

• The United States alone accounts for more than one-third of the 21 percent or 2.6 million of babies who are never breastfed in high-income countries.

• In low-and-middle-income countries, wealth disparities indicate that how long a mother will continue to breastfeed her child.

• Babies from the poorest families are breastfed for 2 years, which is 1.5 times higher than the richest families.

• Various countries have undertaken measures to encourage breastfeeding such as countries like India and Vietnam that have put in place strong policies to protect and promote breastfeeding. While in Turkmenistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, mothers give birth in baby-friendly hospitals.

• Apart from measures taken by the countries, there are various factors that influence breastfeeding such as support from fathers, families, employers and communities.

Breastfeeding Facts


  • Saves the lives of more than 820000 children under age five, especially those under 6 months of age, annually.
  • Prevents 20000 breast cancer deaths.
  • Breastfeeding is associated with an IQ increase of 3 to 4 points.
  • Protects mothers against post-partum haemorrhage, postpartum depression, ovarian and breast cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Initiatives taken by United Nations to promote breastfeeding

• UNICEF launched a global campaign ‘Every Child ALIVE’ that urges governments, private sector and civil society to increase funding and awareness to raise breastfeeding rates from birth through the age of two.

• The United Nations has been observing the ‘World Breastfeeding Week’ every year since 1992 to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. This year

Initiatives taken by India to promote breastfeeding

• MAA - Mothers’ Absolute Affection: Union Health Minister J P Nadda on August 5, 2016 launched MAA - Mothers’ Absolute Affection for promoting breastfeeding. The goal of the programme is to enhance optimal breastfeeding practices.

• ‘Stanpan Suraksha’ mobile application: The Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram on December 5, 2016 launched the ‘Stanpan Suraksha’ mobile application to promote breastfeeding and keep a check on inapt promotion of baby food items in the country.

• Pan-India expansion of Maternity Benefit Programme: PM Narendra Modi announced pan-India expansion of Maternity Benefit Programme (MBP) to benefit pregnant and lactating mothers across the country.


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