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Improving breastfeeding practices, saving lives

August 01, 2014 —

Health worker helping a woman breastfeed

The theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, August 1–7, is Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life!

Breastfeeding can save lives, prevent illness and ensure healthy growth and development. Evidence shows that approximately 800,000 deaths could be prevented each year if exclusive breastfeeding rates in the first six months of life increased (The Lancet, 3 August 2013). Exclusive breastfeeding is a proven solution that provides food security for infants and health benefits to mothers while reducing infant mortality.

In Vietnam, FHI 360’s Alive & Thrive project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has made great strides in creating an enabling environment for improved infant and young child feeding:

  • From January 2012 to March 2014, 2.3 million mothers of children under 2 years of age were reached: 460,000 through counseling at 781 health facilities in 15 provinces and almost 2 million through an award-winning nationwide mass media campaign, Talking Babies for Breastfeeding.
     
  • Preliminary results show that from 2010 to 2013 exclusive breastfeeding increased from 19 percent to 62 percent in program areas.
     
  • Because of the advocacy efforts of Alive & Thrive and its partners, in June 2012, Vietnam’s National Assembly extended paid maternity leave from four to six months, making it easier for women to practice exclusive breastfeeding for six months.
     
  • Since 2012, 60 companies and 10 government agencies have participated in a workplace lactation support program that provided private spaces for mothers to express breastmilk and held orientations for employees on breastfeeding and the right to paid maternity leave and breastfeeding breaks.

Read about Alive & Thrive’s initiatives in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Vietnam.

PHOTO: Alive & Thrive