In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, the World Health Organization released ten steps toward successful breastfeeding for health facilities.
Breast milk provides newborns and infants with nutrients for healthy development and contains antibodies that help infants fight against common childhood illnesses.
Although exclusive breastfeeding for the first half a year is becoming more prevalent in many countries, further improvements is needed to improve the health and development of children around the world, according to WHO.
"It is estimated that around 35 percent of infants aged 0 to 6 months are exclusively breastfed in the world today," Dr. Elizabeth Mason, director of WHO's Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Development, said in a press release.
"But if all babies and young children were breastfed exclusively for their first six months of life and then given nutritious complementary food with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age, the lives of an additional 1.5 million children under five would be saved every year."
The 10 steps to breastfeeding, developed by WHO and UNICEF, is a guideline for health facilities that has been adopted by hospitals in more than 150 countries.
The 10 steps are as follows:
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
- Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated.
- Practice "rooming in": allowing mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand whenever the baby is hungry.
- Give no artificial teats or pacifiers to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.
The World Breastfeeding Week is held from Aug. 1 to 7 in more than 170 countries.