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Helping Mothers Breastfeed to Give Every Baby the Best Start in Life

August 4, 2020

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Breastfeeding is natural, but it isn't always easy. That's why UNICEF and the World Health Organization are calling on governments to protect and promote women's access to skilled breastfeeding counseling, a critical component of breastfeeding support.


It's an investment in the health of babies, mothers and the planet. Analysis indicates that increasing rates of exclusive breastfeeding could save the lives of 820,000 children a year, generating $302 billion in additional income. 


Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risk of possible exposure to the novel coronavirus. So far, the virus has not been found in breast milk. All mothers are advised to breastfeed while practicing good hygiene, following the three W's: Wear a mask, Wash hands with soap before and after touching the baby, and Wipe and disinfect surfaces regularly.



Breast milk is the best form of nutrition for babies, but it's more than a meal: it can give newborns the boost they need to fight off infection. It's a baby's first vaccine. Women who receive skilled counseling from lactation consultants, health care professionals or peer support providers are more likely to start and continue breastfeeding. Above, a UNICEF-supported midwife shows a mother best breastfeeding practices at Kasanda Health Center in central Uganda in 2020. © UNICEF/UNI353032/Abdul



Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life. It's also part of a sustainable food system. Breast milk is the perfect food: it's always clean, and always the right temperature for breastfeeding babies. Above, UNICEF-supported nutritionist Dessy Sandra Dewi and colleagues make their way down a steep path to perform home visits to breastfeeding mothers in Paseban Village, Bayat, Klaten, Indonesia. © UNICEF/UNI347326/Ijazah



In Yako, Burkina Faso, 38-year-old Zalissa (above) gave her older children water and solid food when they were infants, which led to health problems and malnutrition. At UNICEF workshops, the mother of eight learned that exclusive breastfeeding is best for the first six months of a baby's life. "Thanks to the workshops, I am convinced that my son Loukman will grow well and that he will succeed in life," she says." I am happy that my son is healthy." 



Breastfeeding also provides emotional benefits for babies and mothers. It reduces stress for nursing mothers, and breastfed babies are calmer and cry less overall. Above: Fiona, a working mother in China, managed to breastfeed her baby for 28 months, with the support of UNICEF and partners, and her family.  © UNICEF/China/Jerry Liu


Support UNICEF's work to help mothers around the world start and maintain breastfeeding to give their babies the best possible start in life. 


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Top photo: A new mother holds her baby, sleepy and full of breast milk, at a UNICEF-supported breastfeeding workshop at a health center in Caracas, Venezuela on June 9, 2020. © UNICEF/UNI343511/Pocaterra