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Proper Breastfeeding Education Needed in Third World Countries

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Imagine a country where colustrum, the liquid gold that a mother produces before her milk comes in, is thrown away and replaced with a local mix of ingredients and water. It's a scary thought for mothers that know the powerful protection that can be delivered to baby in those first few days, but it's also a reality in countries in Africa and South Asia.

The New York Times featured a report this weekend on the malnutrition and the different ways that the World Bank and the WHO are working to fight it. While the article talks about the great strides being made in nutrition education for school age children, international programs are still missing the boat when it comes to infants.

From the article:

Outside of regions in crises, nutritionists at the bank say, programs should shift their emphasis from directly providing food to changing the behaviors of mothers — for example, to breast-feed exclusively for the first six months of life or seek quick treatment for their children's diarrhea. Improvements to sanitation and health care are also needed.

Critics of the current programs claim that they focus too heavily on providing meals for school-age children and too little on educating mothers about the importance of breastfeeding and proper nutrition in toddlers. They go on to claim that many times, irreparable harm has been done to a child's health before they are even old enough to attend school.

Nutritionists say the implications of the large body of research that informs the bank's report is clear: countries must intervene before children turn 2.

"If you miss that period, the damage is irreversible, especially in cognition, but also in growth," said Marie Ruel, director of the division of food consumption and nutrition at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Among the things being pushed in these countries...proper support and nutrition for breastfeeding mothers, education about the need for children to be exclusively breastfed during the first six months of their lives and information about securing clean water for use with formula mixes or even simply for drinking by toddlers.

It seems odd to me, to think of the third would countries where I would imagine breastfeeding to be so natural and such an integrated part of the culture and then to realize that many of these countries have lower breastfeeding rates than the United States does.


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