May 3rd, 2012

Plummeting breastfeeding rates in East Asia “alarming” -expert

By Thin Lei Win

Faced with plummeting rates of breastfeeding – a “natural vaccine” – East Asia must ensure workplace policies support the practice and must clamp down on the marketing of infant formulas, says a UNICEF expert.

Exclusive breastfeeding – meaning no other liquids are fed for the first six months of a baby’s life – significantly reduces national health costs and helps prevent malnutrition, UNICEF, the United Nations’ children agency, says.

However, as few as 5 percent of all Thai mothers breastfeed exclusively, while in Vietnam and China the rates are 10 percent and 28 percent, respectively, UNICEF says. The rate across East Asia and the Pacific in 2009 was below 30 percent, according to the World Bank.

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