Breast milk is an essential source of nutrients needed for optimal child growth and development, at least for the first 6 months after birth. UNICEF in 2018 reported a global exclusive breastfeeding rate of 41%, with the highest prevalence recorded in Rwanda (87%) and one of the lowest rates recorded in Nigeria (23%). To promote Breastfeeding globally, the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) focused on exclusive breastfeeding was introduced jointly by the WHO and UNICEF in 1991.
Exclusive Breastfeeding can prevent over 800,000 under five deaths globally, 87% of which are under 6 months of age (Lancet, 2013). Also, a 10% reduction in the prevalence of obesity was observed among children exposed to longer periods of breastfeeding (WHO, 2013). Furthermore, studies have highlighted that mothers also benefit tremendously from breastfeeding. In 2015, WHO reported that mothers who breastfed their children for 12 months had a lower risk of developing breast cancer; thereby preventing a potential 20,000 maternal deaths from breast cancer yearly.
Given that breastfeeding helps to reduce the prevalence of a number of diseases, how do we get more mothers to breastfeed their children exclusively? Are there other benefits associated with breastfeeding for mother and child?