Did you know that breast milk is the only food a child needs for the first six months of life?
It’s simple, in theory, yet exclusive breastfeeding is not as commonly practiced as it should be.
The World Health Organization estimates that in 2015, 45 percent of the 5.9 million deaths of children under 5 years were linked to malnutrition, many of which could have been prevented or treated. Reducing child mortality has been a key goal of the global health community for years, dating back to the Millennium Development Goals that were set by the United Nations in 2000. Therefore this number, especially as the result of poor nutrition, is unacceptable.
The first 1,000 days are the most pivotal in a child’s development, and what is paramount in their nutrition is breast milk; exclusively in the first six months and then along with complementary, solid foods up to 2 years or beyond. Although natural in its appearance, the absence of adequate breastfeeding in households is detrimental. Worse yet, although there are a variety of challenges that affect breastfeeding, its deficiency is largely due to a lack of education and awareness of its significance.
World Breastfeeding Week is being recognized Aug. 1 through Aug. 7, and this year’s theme is Sustaining Breastfeeding Together. It reflects the goal of the global health community to come together to ensure that breastfeeding is sustained and prioritized in households, especially in the world’s poorest communities where it is critical. Nutrition plays a significant role in a children’s health and well-being because the consumption of high-quality foods in appropriate quantities at the right stages of development helps children grow physically and intellectually into healthier adults. Poor nutrition during this early stage in life puts children at risk of dying from common childhood infections, and can cause stunting, wasting, chronic illness and life-long problems that are irrevocable.