The decision to formula feed or breastfeed a child typically begins primarily with prenatal intent. However, there are some factors that affect the mother’s decision. These factors are;
Individual maternal characteristics,
Hospital / service provider recommendations
Systematic / policy factors
It will examine a number of aspects that influence the mother’s decision-making regarding infant feeding practices, including these factors. It will also examine the impact of infant feeding practices on early infant and childhood health outcomes. Studies have shown the benefits of breastfeeding in infants and early childhood, including but not limited to protection against common diseases and infections, improved IQ, and even increased school attendance.
Moreover, the World Health Assembly’s global nutrition goals focus on implementing private community-based approaches, limiting over-marketing of infant formula, and promoting breastfeeding support in all sectors in addition to enforcing supportive breastfeeding legislation. It helps to provide an overview of breastfeeding in the dynamic interaction between individual, interpersonal, community and societal factors, such as policies affecting breastfeeding rates and more specifically the health of infants.
The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed their children exclusively for the first 6 months of their lives and then supplement nutritious foods and breast milk for 2 years and longer so that children and mothers receive optimal health benefits related to breastfeeding. Despite the known health and economic benefits of breastfeeding, the global breastfeeding prevalence remains a target where less than 40% of babies worldwide are breastfed, according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is the child’s first barrier to death and disease, and provides protection against respiratory tract infection, gastrointestinal disease, and other adverse health consequences. Breastfeeding has also been associated with increased IQ, school attendance, and higher income in adult life. The World Health Organization recommends that babies receive only breast milk in the first 6 months of their lives and consume nutritionally adequate foods in addition to breast milk. For 2 years and more for children and mothers to enjoy optimal health benefits related to breastfeeding.
If families adhere to the World Health Organization’s breastfeeding advice, the approximately 1 million deaths of children under the age of 5 worldwide could be prevented through breastfeeding alone. Improving maternal compliance with optimal breastfeeding recommendations can also reduce a mother’s risk of ovarian cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and prevent approximately 20,000 maternal deaths from breast cancer alone. Breastfeeding also delays the return of the menstrual cycle, which can help with the birth interval. The global commitment to optimal breastfeeding practices can lead to a range of health benefits, with economic benefits contributing to economic savings of US $ 300 billion worldwide.
The World Health Assembly (WHA), the governing body of the World Health Organization, recognizes the benefits of breastfeeding and has set a goal to increase the prevalence of breastfeeding alone to at least 50% by 2025. WHA breastfeeding goal, a partnership of UNICEF and WHO-led non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and donors, the Global Breastfeeding Collective aims to work with the WHA to accelerate progress towards achieving breastfeeding goals and improve overall rates of breastfeeding initiation. (2 years continue)
The World Bank Nutrition Investment Framework estimates that when the WHA breastfeeding targets are reached by 2025, it will save around $ 300 billion as a result of improved child development and survival rates, as well as preventing more than 500,000 child deaths. Despite the known benefits of breastfeeding, 38% of babies worldwide are exclusively breastfed for 6 months. The mother’s decision regarding infant feeding practices begins with an established prenatal intention to breastfeed or formula feed.
Macro-level factors such as media publishing, infant formula marketing, and breastfeeding legislation interact with micro-level factors including hospitals, workplaces and cultural norms that support or discourage a woman’s breastfeeding intent. The prevalence of breastfeeding continues to vary worldwide due to the lack of support for the mother to continue breastfeeding. Economic pressures, social factors, and lack of positive media coverage about breastfeeding have led to a cultural change that does not fully support breastfeeding and is cited as reasons for the decline in breastfeeding rates worldwide. Over-marketing, support and trust in baby food has created a new culture and standard for baby feeding practices.
As mentioned earlier, despite the known benefits of breastfeeding, the overall breastfeeding rate for babies under 6 months of age is just under 40%. However, the least developed countries have experienced the greatest improvement in exclusive breastfeeding rates, where the prevalence of breastfeeding alone at 6 months increased from 38% in 2000 to 50% in 2012. In such developing countries, about 20% in developed countries and less than 1% in the UK are still breastfeeding, unlike most babies continue to breastfeed at 1 year.
According to the World Health Organization, only 23 countries have ensured that at least 60% of babies under 6 months are exclusively breastfed, and nearly 40% of countries have breastfeeding rates of over 80%. In Africa, about 70% of countries have extended their breastfeeding period for at least 1 year. In contrast, only four countries in the United States have achieved such high breastfeeding times in 1 year. The 2-year breastfeeding period drops dramatically to 45%, and no country in the United States experiences a continuous 2-year breastfeeding period.
The high onset rate and reduced duration rate suggest that many mothers consider breastfeeding but may face obstacles to continue breastfeeding. As indicated in the research, the most frequently mentioned breastfeeding barriers include misinformation about the special benefits of breastfeeding, social norms, lack of spousal and family support, child birth complications, maternal employment and the lack of breastfeeding advice from the healthcare provider.
The Global Breastfeeding Collective’s Call to Action highlights seven priorities for improving the global breastfeeding prevalence. These priorities are;
1) Financing breastfeeding programs,
2) The abolition of the promotion of baby food,
3) Enacting laws to protect the rights of breastfeeding women,
4) Providing breastfeeding support and maternity services,
5) Improving community support for breastfeeding,
6) Developing systems to monitor and improve breastfeeding programs
7) disseminating accurate information about the importance of breastfeeding
The World Health Assembly (WHA) aims to increase the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding to at least 50% by 2025. It is essential to increase the global understanding of breastfeeding prevalence and to address the community, organizational and political factors affecting individual maternal characteristics and breastfeeding practices.
Author: Ozlem Guvenc Agaoglu