As World Breastfeeding Awareness week comes to a close today, recent data suggests more Cambodian mothers have been returning to formula early in 2015 than in previous years.
But despite the Kingdom ranking well above the global average in terms of the prevalence of breastfeeding, the need for changing social norms remains essential in making the practice a trend that continues, experts say.
The number of new mothers who breastfeed their infants in Cambodia for at least the first month of life jumped from just 11 per cent in 2000 to 79.9 per cent in 2014, the most recent year for which statistics for Cambodia are available.
The figure surpasses the global average of 38 per cent for 2015, according to the World Health Organization.
However, despite this accomplishment, data shows that the number of mothers who breastfeed for up to six months – the ideal duration to ensure a child’s healthy development – fell nearly 10 per cent in 2014 from 2013 levels, according to the Cambodia Demographic Health Survey (CDHS).
“We feel that such dramatic change is due in large part to the migration issues and increased use of breast milk substitutes,” said Abigail Beeson, health and nutrition specialist for Save the Children Cambodia.
Beeson pointed to increasing formula sales, which peaked in 2010, with 9.3 per cent of children of breastfeeding age instead using formula.
This increase, from 4.3 per cent in 2000, came despite a 2005 sub-decree to limit potentially harmful and unclear marketing surrounding formula.
Women in urban areas reported that “social pressure through Facebook and other media”, and a lack of public information, led them to avoid breastfeeding, according to Beeson, who said “establishing social norms earlier” is essential in changing parental views on the importance of breastfeeding.