Breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding refers to the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from human breasts rather than from 
Breastfeeding icon
a baby bottle or other container. Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk. Most mothers can breastfeed for six months or more, without the supplement of infant formula milk or solid food.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for newborns at least until 6 months of age. Breastfeeding is the ideal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Research suggests that breastfeeding promotes health, helps to prevent disease and reduces health care and feeding costs.

Child mortality and breastfeeding

The WHO estimates that 13% of under-5 deaths could be avoided if either the children were exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months. Each year, 3.9 million children die in the first 28 days of life. Undernutrition and diarrhoea (2 million children die annually) are two main factors behind child mortality. 6 % of under-5 deaths could be prevented with adequate and safe complementary feeding.

In addition, infants aged 0-5 months who are not breastfed have seven-fold and five-fold increased risks of death from diarrhoea and pneumonia, respectively, compared with infants who are exclusively breastfed. The exclusive breastfeeding rate 0-6 months in East Asia and the Pacific is 35.5 percent, ranging form 5.4 percent (Thailand) to 65.1 percent (Democratic People's Republic of Korea).

Public Breastfeeding debates

ttitudes toward breastfeeding in public vary around the world. In many parts of the developing world, breastfeeding in public is socially acceptable and uncontroversial. In parts of the industrialized world breastfeeding in public is infrequent due to societal attitudes about indecent exposure and dress code.

  • In Shanghai, breastfeeding in public is considered embarrassing. There have been calls for the establishment of baby care facilities in public places.
  • In Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives some protection under sex equality. A 1989 Supreme Court of Canada decision set the precedent for pregnancy as a condition unique to women and that thus discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination. Canadian legal precedent also allows women the right to bare their breasts, just as men may. In British Columbia, the British Columbia Human Rights Commission Policy and Procedures Manual protects the rights of female workers who wish to breastfeed.
  • A UK Department of Health survey found that 84% find breastfeeding in public acceptable if done discreetly, however 67%  mothers are worried about general opinion being against public breastfeeding. To combat these fears in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation safeguarding the freedom of women to breastfeed in public in 2005.


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