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Breast is Best for Babies

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Cambodia’s Ministry of Health, and the UNICEF and WHO Offices in Cambodia have observed with great sadness and concern the unfolding story of infant formula laced with the industrial chemical melamine by producers in China.



The milk scandal in China has sickened nearly 53,000 Chinese infants who were fed the contaminated baby formulas. Four babies have died. More than ten thousand are still being treated in hospital. It cannot be ruled out that many of the babies will suffer long term consequences as a result of kidney damage and that it will affect their health later in life.

The fact is that this tragedy would not have happened on this scale if more babies were breastfed in China instead of being fed breast milk substitutes. Breast milk substitutes are inferior to breastmilk and they put babies at increased risk of infections, malnutrition and death even when they are not deliberately mixed with harmful substances.

Ideally, all infants should be fed exclusively with breast milk from the moment they are born and for the first six months of life. No other liquid or food, not even water, is needed during this period. Breastfeeding should continue along with good quality complementary food from six months to at least two years of age. There is overwhelming evidence that breastfeeding dramatically reduces an infant's risk of dying. Breastfeeding is as important as immunization for preventing disease and reducing the number of children who die every year.

Health authorities worldwide agree that breast milk is indisputably better for infant feeding than any infant formula:

  • No infant formula contains the perfect combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to enhance infant growth and brain development, as breast milk does.
  • No infant formula contains antibodies to protect infants against infections and illnesses, such as diarrhoea, respiratory tract illnesses, ear infections and allergies, as breast milk does.
  • No infant formula is as safe to administer as breast milk is. Contamination can occur with any brand of infant formula. Using infant formula can cause illness when prepared under unhygienic circumstances.
  • Formula feeding is expensive! Breast milk costs nothing and provides the perfect nutrition for infants while protecting them from infections. It is always available at the right temperature and in the correct amount.

Breastfeeding benefits the mother as well as the baby. It decreases the risk of breast cancer, it delays fertility thereby supporting child spacing, and it helps mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy weight. Mothers save money by not buying formula feeds and the breastfeeding reduces medical cost for costs for families and the society as a whole.

Breastfeeding is possible also for working mothers who cannot breastfeed during working hours. Breast milk can be expressed, saved in a clean container and stored for up to eight hours at room temperature without going bad. This makes it possible to feed a baby breastmilk even when the mother is not there to breastfeed because she has to work.

Most Cambodian babies are breastfed but too few are breastfed exclusively. We strongly encourage all mothers to feed their babies only breastmilk for their first 6 months of life and to continue breastfeeding up to two years of age. Breastfeeding indeed is best.

Source institution:

WHO Cambodia Office

Contributor name:

La-Ong Tokmoh

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