WHO recommends that mothers worldwide exclusively breastfeed infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. From a global perspective, suboptimal breastfeeding is responsible for 45% of neonatal infectious deaths, 30% of diarrhoeal deaths and 18% of acute respiratory deaths in children under five. In European countries, provided data are available, breastfeeding rates for babies aged 3 months range from 22.7% to 97.6%. By 6 months, rates are significantly lower, although progress has been made in many Member States of the WHO European Region.

This year, World Breastfeeding Week celebrates its 20th anniversary, which it shares with the establishment of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), aimed at giving every baby the best start in life by creating a health-care environment where breastfeeding is the norm, not exception.

It is also a decade since the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding was endorsed by WHO Member States and the UNICEF Executive Board, advancing efforts to protect, promote and support the appropriate feeding of infants and young children. To monitor the implementation of the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding in countries, WHO developed a tool for assessing national practices, policies and programmes. Based on this tool, the International Baby Food Action Network of Asia developed the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative to monitor and report on infant and young child feeding practices, policies and programmes worldwide.

In May this year, WHO’s Member States brought the Global Strategy higher in the political agenda by endorsing a comprehensive implementation plan for maternal, infant and young child nutrition. One of the plan’s six targets is for at least 50% of babies aged under 6 months to be exclusively breastfed by 2025.The WHO recommends that mothers worldwide exclusively breastfeed infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. From a global perspective, insufficient and ineffective breastfeeding is responsible for 45% of neonatal infectious deaths, 30% of diarrhoeal deaths and 18% of acute respiratory deaths in children under five. In European countries, provided data are available, breastfeeding rates for babies aged 3 months range from 22.7% to 97.6%. By 6 months, breastfeeding rates are significantly lower, although there are signs that the practice is starting to increase in many Member States of the WHO European Region.

World Breastfeeding Week also shares its anniversary with the establishment of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) which aims at giving every baby the best start in life by creating a health-care environment where breastfeeding is the norm, not the exception.

It is also a decade since the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding was endorsed by WHO Member States and the UNICEF Executive Board, advancing efforts to protect, promote and support the appropriate feeding of infants and young children. To monitor the implementation of the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding in countries, WHO developed a tool for assessing national practices, policies and programmes. Based on this tool, the International Baby Food Action Network of Asia developed the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative to monitor and report on infant and young child feeding practices, policies and programmes worldwide.

In May this year, WHO’s Member States raised the Global Strategy higher up the political agenda by endorsing a comprehensive implementation plan for maternal, infant and young child nutrition. One of the plan’s six targets is for at least 50% of babies aged under 6 months to be exclusively breastfed by 2025.


EPHA related articles

- Baby milk products high on the political agenda

- State of the World Mothers 2012 Report by Save the Children

- Why healthy ageing starts with a childhood free of inequality

- EPHA Position on food intended for infants and young children and on food for special medical purposes

- EPHA Summary of the Joint Meeting of the HLG on Nutrition and the EU Platform for action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health

- Breast feeding on the EU agenda

- EPHA and 10 civil society partners urges MEPs to reject a health claim on baby milk

Last modified on August 31 2012.