The Ministry of Health is collaborating with nutrition-focused NGOs and UN agencies to support and promote breastfeeding as the first and only source of food for infants from birth to six months and as a supplement until the child is two years or older.
In a press release issued on Monday ahead of World Breastfeeding Week 2019, the ministry said proper breastfeeding is vital to reduce the infant malnutrition and mortality rate.
“World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated by more than 120 nations across the world to promote the importance of breastfeeding and to reduce infant malnutrition and the death rate,” said the press release.
The ministry said Cambodia first joined World Breastfeeding Week in 2001 and continued to celebrate it annually until 2010. In the first decade, it said, public awareness on breastfeeding improved significantly.
Between 2000 and 2010, breastfeeding for infants from birth until six months old jumped from 11 per cent to 74 per cent, according to Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey 2000-2010 (CDHS 2000-2010).
However, the breastfeeding rate dropped from 74 to 64 per cent, according to the ministry’s new survey in 2014. The ministry said the drop was due to the increasing use of baby formula and nutritious food for infants, prompting the ministry to participate in the World Breastfeeding Week again in 2015.
Plan International health specialist Chhoun Vathana told The Post on Monday that the decrease in breastfeeding is caused by several factors.
These include a lack of awareness and work conditions among employed parents, while some mothers discontinue breastfeeding their children out of concerns that breastfeeding could affect the shape of their breast.
“There are some other factors that contributed to the drop. Some mothers do not breastfeed their child, when they were just born when their breast milk flows out quickly.
“Because they are not aware of that, they do not breastfeed their child instantly after its birth. So when the breast milk comes out slowly, they opt for baby formula instead,” he said.
Ministry of Heath undersecretary of state Prak Sophorn Neary declined to comment on the issue, saying she was at a meeting.
The Ministry of Health said breastfeeding during the first hour of a child’s birth can reduce the infant mortality rate by 20 per cent, while a child who receives breast milk in the first six months is 11 times less likely to suffer from diarrhoea and 15 times less likely to experience lung infection.
The ministry said children who had never been breastfed could suffer from slower brain development, and have an IQ that is 2.6 points lower than children who have been breastfed.
Cambodia celebrates World Breastfeeding Week 2019 under the theme Everybody Supports Breastfeeding between August 1 and 31 every year.