Aug 02, Colombo: Sri Lanka ranks in the top 23 countries globally on breastfeeding rate according to a new report released Tuesday by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective, a new initiative to increase global breastfeeding rates.
The report released at the start of World Breastfeeding Week says no country in the world fully meets recommended standards for breastfeeding.
The 'Global Breastfeeding Scorecard' which evaluated 194 nations found that only 40 percent of children younger than six months are breastfed exclusively (given nothing but breast milk) and only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent.
Sri Lanka, as one of the first countries in the world to adopt the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in 1981, and following investment in the promotion of breastfeeding, ranks within the top 23 countries, with 82 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their children across the nation.
Evidence shows that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers. It is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.
"The amazing thing about breastfeeding is that it supports the brain development of children, building their 'cognitive capital' and ensuring they learn and grow into happy, healthy and productive adults. Breastfeeding is simply one of the most effective investments any nation can make in the health of their young and the future health of their economies and societies," said UNICEF Sri Lanka Representative Tim Sutton.
"We should all be immensely proud that in Sri Lanka 82 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed their children for six months, but we must all work to sustain these real gains. Together, we must continue to implement and monitor the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes, ensuring that mothers are empowered with the right information especially in times of emergency; together we must continue to strengthen the 'Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative' which ensures that hospitals promote breastfeeding; and perhaps most importantly, together we must continue investing in our health staff, who ensure that mothers have the knowledge and confidence to breastfeed their children."
"Breastfeeding is the best start in life one can give to the newborn and it has positive effects that last through adulthood - no other health intervention has a return on investment matching that for breastfeeding," said WHO Representative to Sri Lanka, Dr Razia Pendse.
"For sustaining breastfeeding, it is important to ensure nutrition and health of adolescent girls, women of reproductive age, antenatal and breastfeeding mothers. Sri Lanka has been a pioneer in promoting and protecting breastfeeding and has breastfeeding as a central pillar in the National Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding (2015 - 2020)."
The scorecard was released at the start of World Breastfeeding Week alongside a new analysis demonstrating that an annual investment of only US$4.70 per newborn is required to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months to 50 percent by 2025.
Breastfeeding is critical for the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals. It improves nutrition (SDG2), prevents child mortality and decreases the risk of non-communicable diseases (SDG3), and supports cognitive development and education (SDG4). Breastfeeding is also an enabler to ending poverty, promoting economic growth and reducing inequalities.