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World Breastfeeding Week: PAHO/WHO urges support for nursing mothers to ensure exclusive breastfeeding up to six months

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In Latin America and the Caribbean, over 60% of infants are not exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life, as is recommended by PAHO/WHO. World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated August 1-7.

As part of World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is urging increased support for breastfeeding, so that more mothers begin nursing their babies during the first hour of life, breastfeed them exclusively up to age 6 months, and continue breastfeeding up to age 2 or beyond, while providing complementary foods. These practices could save as many as one million children’s lives worldwide each year.

In most Latin American and some Caribbean countries, fewer than half of babies begin to nurse within 60 minutes of birth, and over 60% of infants are not fed exclusively with mother’s milk up to the sixth month, as recommended by PAHO/WHO.

“Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure children’s good health and survival,” said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. “Although breastfeeding has increased in many countries in the Americas, much remains to be done to optimize feeding practices.”

Practically all women can nurse, provided they have good information and adequate support from their families, from the health system, and at their places of work or study. Dr. Etienne urged “all sectors of society to commit to greater efforts to support mothers who breastfeed, so that they and their babies can enjoy the many benefits of this practice.”

Mother’s milk is the best food for newborns and young babies. It provides all of the necessary nutrients, contains protective antibodies, and requires no preparation. Breastfeeding is also good for mothers as it helps with weight loss after childbirth and reduces the risks of type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers, and anemia.

PAHO has produced a guide that outlines ways to ensure optimal support for mothers and breastfeeding and also provides information about breastfeeding practices in Latin America and the Caribbean. The guide is available at: http://bit.ly/169u7bv.

PAHO was founded in 1902 and is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with all the countries of the hemisphere to improve the health and the quality of life of the peoples of the Region. Its Secretariat serves as the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for the Americas.

This this press release was issued by the Pan American Health Association and can be read in its entirety on the PAHO website.

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