World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated every year from August 1 to August 7 across the world to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies.
Only thirty-three percent of mothers breastfeed their baby in Belize.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breast milk is the preferred and most appropriate source of nutrition for infants, adapting over time to meet the changing needs of the growing baby. The act of breastfeeding builds a strong emotional connection between the mother and infant, a bond which lasts a lifetime and evidence-based research indicates that infants and children who are breastfed are at a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), infections of the ear, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract, asthma, meningitis and obesity.
"Increasing exclusive breastfeeding rates can avert 100,000 infant deaths annually in Nigeria and add more than 150 million dollars to the Nigerian economy each year".
The debate of whether breast is best has been going on for years but now the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that Midwives should check if mums are breastfeeding within an hour of birth.
It has set a national target of 15% in exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
Dr. Polanco said that babies who are exclusively breastfed go on to lead healthier lives. It is important to note there are circumstances that make it challenging or not possible to breastfeed. Mothers are expected to put the baby to the breast within 30 minuties of delivery and to give the baby the first milk which is known as colostrum. This year, World Health Organization is working with UNICEF and partners to promote the importance of helping mothers breastfeed their babies within that crucial first hour of life. Breastfeeding has a multitude of benefits for women and children, regardless of whether they live in a rich or poor household. Even when poverty contributes to less-than-optimal nutrition or inadequate access to food, breastfeeding remains the recommended and most beneficial choice for the child and mother.
"But these are actually signs that the woman's body has adjusted to the baby's feeding requirement".
Improving these practices, promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding through the baby-friendly hospital initiative as well as literacy and birth spacing, can help improve survival of children and mothers in the region. During the same period, the rates of early initiation of breastfeeding decreased from 40 per cent to 27 per cent. The survey also revealed that not even 50% of the children under three years of age in the city are breastfed within an hour of their birth.
Beyond combating marketing of breast milk substitutes, there is need to invest in policies and programmes that support women's breastfeeding.