It is a child right to receive the best nutrition, as breastfeeding is for the mother. World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding (without other liquids, not even water) during the first 6 months, and up to 2 years with complementary foods. WHO also recommends initiating breastfeeding during the newborn’s first hour of life.
Breast milk is the most adequate and complete food for infants, and provides them with the nutrients they need for a healthy growth, in quantity and quality. Besides, it improves infants’ survival and protects them from infectious diseases such as diarrhea or pneumonia, favoring their soon recovery as well; it also prevents chronic diseases such as overweight and obesity. Breastfeeding promotes sensory and cognitive development and creates a bond between mother and baby.
For the mother, breastfeeding decreases risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. Moreover, it is available at all times and is free, so it can increase family resources and therefore those of the country. It has been proven that mothers and caregivers require constant support to initiate and maintain adequate breastfeeding.
Worldwide, only 4 out of 10 babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. According to the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Survey, only 1 of 10 infants (14.4%) in Mexico benefit from breastfeeding, according to the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Survey, which was lower than reported on 2006 (22.3%). This number was reduced in a greater extent in rural areas (from 36.9% in 2006 to 18.5% in 2012) in respect to urban (from 17.3% to 12.7% from 2006 to 2012). Furthermore, only 38% of newborns are breastfed during the first hour of life.
On the other side, 25% of the infants are predominantly breastfed, which includes other liquids such as water and sugar-sweetened beverages. Besides, 35.5% of children still breastfeed at one year of age, and only 14.1% does at two years. Breastfeeding usually lasts around 10 months.
Inadequate breastfeeding practice is a public health issue. In Mexico, the public policy that seeks breastfeeding protection, promotion and support up to 2 years of age is the 2014-2018 National Breastfeeding Strategy. This strategy intends to reduce infant mortality and helps to prevent overweight, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Its main objective is to “increase the number of children who are breastfed from birth and up to 2 years of age”, through its prioritization on the government agenda. Objectives include:
- At an institutional level, to promote, protect and support breastfeeding, by developing actions, monitoring and follow-up of the results through institute coordination.
- Strengthen institutional capacities that allow children to benefit from breastfeeding and reduce mortality risks during infancy. For example, through the promotion of human milk banks.
- At the private initiative, promote exclusive breastfeeding among working mothers, by incorporating lactation rooms or breastfeeding stations at companies.
- Monitor compliance of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, prioritizing breast milk as the best food for infants.
- Protect and promote breastfeeding in primary care level, as on health units of the National Crusade Against Hunger (Cruzada Nacional contra el Hambre).
Breastfeeding is the most cost-effective measure for health and diet during early childhood. Its benefits are observed in both mothers and infants, so it is relevant to support its start and maintenance among pregnant women and general population, so it is accepted and supported by the whole of society.
Mexican Federal Government. Estrategia Nacional de Lactancia Materna 2014-2018. Available from: https://www.gob.mx/cms/uploads/attachment/file/75383/ENLM_2014-2018.pdf
Gutiérrez JP, Rivera-Dommarco J, Shamah-Levy T, Villalpando-Hernández S, Franco A, Cuevas-Nasu L, Romero-Martínez M, et al. Encuesta Nacional de Salud y Nutrición 2012. Available from: http://oment.uanl.mx/descarga/ensanut2012.pdf
World Health Organization. Salud de la madre, el recién nacido, del niño y del adolescente: Lactancia Materna. Available from: http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/topics/newborn/nutrition/breastfeeding/es/