According to statistics of the Ministry of Health, only 18 percent of newborn babies in the country are fed solely on breast milk alone for the first six months.
Although Vietnam has adopted policies on exclusively breastfeeding children for at least six months of age as part of its national nutrition strategy and advocates the initiation of breastfeeding in the first hours after birth, the practice is still not very prevalent.
Medical workers tell mothers that breastfeeding is one of the most effective means to save the lives of young children and protect infants against deadly diseases while fostering growth and development. However, only 18 percent of Vietnamese infants are breastfed exclusively on mothers’ milk in the first six months of life.
Bottle-feeding infants is still a very common practice and is on the rise. Early supplementary feeding is also on the rise with some 55 percent of young children being fed on supplementary foods before six months of age.
Experts say that a surge in advertising of milk products in the local media has changed awareness in young mothers and the inadequate maternity leave of only four months has greatly affected exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first six months. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, maternity leave should be increased to at least six months for a mother to take care of her newborn.
UNICEF estimates that exclusive breastfeeding until the age of six months could prevent the death of 1.3 million children under the age of five each year. UNICEF is committed to the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding and it has been working closely with the Reproductive Health Department of the Ministry of Health, National Institute for Nutrition, WHO and other partner organizations on a number of initiatives to advocate and further promote breastfeeding practices in Vietnam.