Vietnam celebrates World Breastfeeding Week

A series of events across the country will mark the World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7.

This year's events will focus on key issues relating to the benefits of breast feeding. Factors like breastfeeding an infant within an hour of birth; exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months sans water, formula or food; more the baby suckles the more milk a mother produces; breastfeeding for 24 months as breast milk continues to provide vital nutrients for a baby’s growth; health workers to promote breast milk not formula and promoting breastfeeding not bottle feeding.

Events will include expert discussions on the benefits of breastfeeding, counselling in breastfeeding, a breastfeeding festival and a lucky draw.  Child education and entertainment areas, photo booths for mother and child, free examination of mother and child and a knowledge competition will be added events. Of special interest will be 200 mothers who will publicly support breast feeding practices by openly breastfeeding during a festival in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

The event is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, WHO and Alive and Thrive and will take place in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong delta province of An Giang, the highland provinces of Kon Tum and  Dak Lak, the central provinces of Da Nang, Khanh Hoa and Ninh Thuan and the northern provinces of Cao Bang, Thanh Hoa and Dien Bien.

The organizers are taking an egalitarian approach in addressing child malnutrition in Vietnam by enacting strong policies and programs that support women and families. Provision for paid maternity leave of six month duration needs to be ensured in the National Labor Code, health and community workers must ensure mothers have access to skilled support and counseling of correct breast feeding practices and up to date information must be made available to mothers and families, so as to promote and advocate breast feeding.

Breast feeding rates have plummeted in Vietnam from 34 percent in 1998 to 19 percent in 2010, showing that only 19 out of 100 women breastfeed their babies during the critical first six months. This figure is much lower than the world average rate of 35 percent.

Depriving a child of breastfeeding has serious health consequences. Every third born suffers from growth deficiency and every fifth born suffers malnutrition.  Millions of Vietnamese children suffer from various complex illnesses due to poor breastfeeding practices.
Breastfeeding is considered the safest and the most vital for a newborn’s survival and can prove a boon for children under 5 in the developing world. Breastfeeding is not a luxury but the birthright of every child.

By Uyen Phuong

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