The World Health Organization recommends babies be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, and then for breastfeeding to continue alongside suitable complementary foods for 2 years and beyond.
A recent Lancet series on breastfeeding indicated that, if worldwide breastfeeding rates were scaled up to near universal levels, 823,000 annual deaths of children under 5 could be prevented.
Despite such compelling evidence about the importance of breastfeeding, and recommendations from health organisations, only 35% of babies worldwide are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months.
Brazil, however, is one standout country that has taken important steps to boost its breastfeeding rates, and is saving lives as a result.
Incredibly, child mortality rates in Brazil have been reduced by 73% from 1990 to 2015.
Human Milk Banks In Brazil
According to The Lancet report, factors such as work conflicts, cultural pressure, and lack of breastfeeding education, hinder mothers from breastfeeding in both low- and high-income countries.
Brazil has created effective ways to educate mothers about breastfeeding and make it easier for them to breastfeed.
According to the Brazilian Human Milk Banks Network and Ministry of Health of Brazil, these things have been associated with Brazil’s significant drop in child mortality rates.
Perhaps one of the most significant ways Brazil has achieved this is with their human milk banks.
Astonishingly, Brazil has 220 of the world’s 292 human milk banks!
Brazil began its human milk banking system in 1998 and in the past 10 years, nearly 2 million babies have received human milk through this system.
Initiatives like this have seen exclusive breastfeeding rates in Brazil go from 2% in 1986 to 39% in 2006.
Other Brazilian Initiatives
Other ways Brazil has helped increase breastfeeding rates is through its paid maternity leave scheme, and its stringent monitoring of the marketing of formula.
It is hoped other countries will take a leaf out of Brazil’s book and create more human milk banks, so that more babies can be exclusively fed human milk, especially babies who are the most vulnerable (e.g. premature babies).
Indeed, there are still many things that need to be done to help boost breastfeeding rates.