(KPL) August marks the start of World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August to encourage exclusive breastfeeding and improve babies’ health.

This year according to a chosen theme “empower parents and enable breastfeeding”, WHO is working with UNICEF and other partners to promote the importance of family-friendly policies to enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture the bond with their children in early life when it requires the most.

Family-friendly policies – such as paid parental leave – enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children in early life, when it matters most.

The evidence is clear that during early childhood, the optimal nutrition provided by breastfeeding, along with nurturing care and stimulation, can strengthen children’s brain development with impacts that endure over a lifetime, according to the statement of the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Family-friendly policies are particularly important for working parents. Mothers need time off from work to recover from birth and get breastfeeding off to a successful start.

When a breastfeeding mother returns to work, her ability to continue breastfeeding depends on having access to breastfeeding breaks; a safe, private, and hygienic space for expressing and storing breastmilk; and affordable childcare at or near her workplace.

“Exclusive breastfeeding means new-borns receive only breast milk during their first 6 months of life, without any additional food or drink, as breast milk provides infants with all the energy and nutrients they need, and continues to be a key supplement to their growth during the first two years of life,” said Dr. Philavong Bounpheng, Director-General, Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion of Ministry of Health.

Breastfeeding rates in the Lao PDR are low at 45 per cent, according to the LSIS II, 2017 because many parents do not know that milk powder and other baby formulas are not as healthy as breastmilk and increase the potential for babies to get sick.

“Most Lao families want to breastfeed their baby but many are not successful. Sometimes this is because they need more help to start correctly. Sometimes this is because their family members or village have incorrect beliefs about breastfeeding and don’t support them too feed correctly. And sometimes it is because mothers don’t have enough time to breastfeed because they have to leave baby at home and go to work,” Ms Kelley Khamphouxay, Senior Health Specialist, Save the Children International in Laos.

“In order to improve breastfeeding in Laos and improve nutrition of Lao children, everyone needs to work as a team,” added Ms Kelley Khamphouxay.

KPL