Moms exclusively breastfeeding their infants on the decline

Filipino mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding their infants are on the decline in the Philippines.

Based on the 7th National Nutrition Survey (NNS) conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), exclusive breastfeeding is practiced by only 8.6 percent of the respondents, while a high 55.4 percent feed their children with other milk or in combination with complementary feeding.

According to the agency, the low level of breastfeeding practices for infants and young children is consistent with the high prevalence of malnutrition among 0-5 year age group where 22.2 percent and 27.9 percent are underweight and stunted, respectively.

It added that infant and young child feeding is said to be the most critical ultimate care for growth and development.

”What infants and young children eat has an impact on their nutritional status, growth, development, health and survival that will determine human capacity and productivity during adulthood. There is no best way to feed an infant to have the best start in life than what Mother Nature offers in breast milk,” FNRI-DOST added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend that infants receive only breast milk from birth to six months and provide appropriate complementary foods with continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age and beyond.

According to the WHO, breast milk gives babies all the nutrients they need for the first six months of life and helps protect them from disease, including gastro-intestinal infections, childhood diabetes, eczema, obesity and asthma. It also reduces the mother’s risk of getting ovarian or breast cancer later in life.

UNICEF, for its part, is actively pushing for exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding, UNICEF said, means feeding the child with only mother’s milk and nothing else, not even water.

UNICEF noted that soft, semi-solid and solid food is ideal for babies six months and beyond, while the mother continues breastfeeding. This is called complementary feeding.

Complementary feeding, UNICEF explains, gives children the variety of nutrients that they need for their age, and will help them to develop fully into healthy and active individuals.

The FNRI-DOST survey also shows that among three-month old infants, nine out of 10 were given water as complementary food.

Among four-month old infants, two out of 10 were given with sugar. These results fell short of the recommendation that only breastmilk should be given to infants before six monts.

The agency noted that results of the national survey revealed the need to strengthen advocacy and training on correct infant and young child feeding practices to all nursing mothers and would-be mothers to improve Filipino infants and young children’s nutritional status. PNA

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