Breastfeeding

August 2013

Key facts

  • Globally, more than 13 children under five years old die every minute from preventable causes1, and under-nutrition contributes to almost half these deaths.2,4
  • Under-nutrition, particularly in children under two years old, prevents them from reaching their full development potential.
  • Globally, exclusive and continued breastfeeding could help prevent 13% of deaths of children under five years old3 .
  • Optimal breastfeeding saves lives, prevents childhood diseases (pneumonia, diarrhoea, etc.), increases intelligence by 3-5 IQ points and reduces the risks of obesity and Type II diabetes later in life. For the mother, it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
  • Optimal breastfeeding means:
    • Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth;
    • Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life;
    • Continued breastfeeding for two years and beyond; and
    • Introduction of adequate and appropriate complementary foods from six months onwards.
  • Of the 135 million babies born every year, only 42% are breastfed within the first hour of life, only 38% of mothers practice exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months and 58% of mothers continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years.4
  • In the Western Pacific Region, breastfeeding initiation within the first hour of life is not yet optimal across several countries. The rates in the following countries are as follows: Samoa (88%), Nauru (76%), Solomon Islands (75%), Vanuatu (72%), the Marshall Islands (73%), Mongolia (71%), Cambodia (65%), Fiji (57%), the Philippines (54%), China (41%), Viet Nam (40%), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (30%) and Tuvalu (15%).
  • Exclusive breastfeeding practice rates vary in the Region with Cambodia (74%), Solomon Islands (74%), Kiribati (69%), Nauru (67%), the Federated States of Micronesia (60%), Mongolia (59%), Papua New Guinea (56%), Samoa (51%), Republic of Korea (50%), Fiji (40%), Vanuatu (40%), Tuvalu (35%), the Philippines (34%), the Marshall Islands (31%), China (28%), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (26%), Japan (21%) and Viet Nam (17%).
  • In the Region, a slow decline of breastfeeding rates was recorded for children at the age of two years in Kiribati (82%), Samoa (74%), Papua New Guinea (72%), Solomon Islands (67%), Mongolia (66%), Nauru (65%), the Marshall Islands (53%), Tuvalu (51%), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (48%), Cambodia (43%), the Philippines (34%), Vanuatu (32%) and Viet Nam (19%).

Actions that count in the Region

  • National infant and young child feeding policies (stand-alone or integrated) for breastfeeding are implemented in 17 countries and areas: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Fiji, Kiribati, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.
  • 9713 (54%) of hospitals with maternity services in the Region have been certified at least once as Baby-Friendly Hospitals.
  • Eleven countries have passed national legislations to implement the recommendations of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. However, only Fiji, Palau and the Philippines are implementing the International Code in full.
  • In the Region, 17 countries offer paid maternity leave, but only Australia (12 months) and Viet Nam (six months) offer paid maternity leave for more than the 14 weeks minimum recommended by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
  • Paid breastfeeding breaks (time off to breastfeed/express breast-milk) as recommended by the ILO Maternity Protection Convention of 2000, are provided in 13 countries.

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