LatAm countries organize breastfeeding events to promote benefits of mother's milk

Updated: 2016-08-05 16:35


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LatAm countries organize breastfeeding events to promote benefits of mother's milk

A woman breastfeeds her baby as part of the celebration for World Breastfeeding Week in Caracas, Venezuela, August 4, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

CARACAS - Latin American countries have organized public breastfeeding events this week to commemorate World Breastfeeding Week from Aug 1 to 7.

In Venezuela's capital Caracas, some 200 women gathered at El Vena Plaza to breastfeed their babies on Thursday to tout the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother.

The event also marked a national milestone, since Venezuela's breastfeeding rate has climbed from a mere 7 percent in 1997 to 52 percent today, Marilyn Di Luca, director of the National Nutrition Institute (INN), told state television network VTV.

The women gathered at the site to "promote breastfeeding as an act of love, equality, justice, health, well-being and above all food security," said Di Luca, urging Venezuelans to help meet the government-set goal of raising the rate to 70 percent by 2019.

The World Health Organization recommends mothers exclusively breastfeed infants from birth until they are six months old, citing the health benefits of mother's milk.

Venezuela's success has eluded Mexico, where the low breastfeeding rate has been considered as a public health crisis.

Officials and health workers in Mexico held press conferences on Wednesday to sound alarms and recommend ways to combat the stigma of breastfeeding in a country where baby formula is widely considered to be superior to breast milk.

"In Mexico, the number of children that die could be up to five times lower with something as simple as breast milk for the first six months ... and then complementing it with other foods until they are two years old," Isabel Crowley, representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Mexico, told reporters.

The good news is that the breastfeeding rate in Mexico has doubled in the past three years, up from 14.4 percent in 2012 to 30.8 percent in 2015, according to UNICEF.

Crowley called for continued efforts to raise the rate to at least 80 percent, but noted that one major obstacle was the workplace.

"Mexican women who want to breastfeed their babies face many challenges when they return to work, among them the lack of support from co-workers and discrimination in the workplace," she said, whereas women should be encouraged to breastfeed because it reduces the likelihood of illness in the first year of infancy by 35 percent, and as a result reduces absenteeism of the parents by 30 to 70 percent.

Attitudes in Mexico are beginning to change, according to media reports.

The city government of Ciudad Juarez, in northern Chihuahua state, announced Thursday it would install a special breastfeeding nook for new mothers at its offices starting next month, local daily Norte Digital said.

"In all workplaces there should be an area where mothers can breastfeed their babies and get 45 minutes to feed them," said Hugo Staines, director of the city's health department.

In Colombia's capital Bogota, as many as 2,000 women gathered at a city park to breastfeed their babies, many more than last year.

"I think it's great for (the organizers) to support moms, because breast milk is the essential food for babies," said new mother Gabriela Mulfo.

"I urge all mothers to breastfeed. It is the first and greatest show of love we can present to our children," said Mulfo.

"Breast milk protects the baby, helps the mother recover (from childbirth) and on top of that it's free," UNICEF's Crowley said.