Civil society organisations (CSOs) working on nutrition issues co-organised World Breastfeeding Week 2022 (WBW2022) events in Cambodia to encourage breastfeeding through education, while also calling for more support to promote the practice in the country.

Included among the seven slogans created by the CSOs during the campaign for WBW2022 are “Every mother has a right to breastfeed anytime and anywhere” and “Men support and encourage women to breastfeed”.

World Breastfeeding Week is observed annually in more than 120 countries, usually in the first week of August, according to Chum Senveasna, head of the ARCH and Workplace Nutrition, Infant and Young Child Feeding Support Project at the NGO Helen Keller International Cambodia.

Senveasna told The Post on August 8 that WBW2022 was held to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding, which improves the health of children and has been proven to be much better for children than infant formulas.

He said the event has helped parents and especially mothers to understand clearly that the infant formula being promoted to them is not as beneficial as natural breast-milk.

“Certain companies have now dared advertise that infant formula is more beneficial than breast-milk. This advertising is completely wrong and misleads many parents to misunderstand the situation and this makes many infants suffer,” he said.

Senveasna expected that the campaign would reach members of the public so that they can understand about the benefits of breastfeeding and promote it instead of infant formula which simply cannot be compared to breast-milk.

A woman breastfeeds her infant at a ward in National Maternal and Child Health Centre in March. NMCHC

Grana Pu Selvie, technical lead for the Integrated Nutrition Programme at World Vision Cambodia, said breast-milk is the ideal food for infants. Citing the World Health Organisation (WHO), she said it is safe, clean and contains antibodies which help protect against many common childhood illnesses.

She added that breast-milk provides all of the energy and nutrients that an infant needs for the first months of their life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of their first year and up to one-third during the second year of the infant’s life.

“Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life. Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Considering the benefits both for the mother and child, it is important to support mothers in breastfeeding,” she told The Post.

The rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children from zero to six months has declined from 65 per cent in 2014 to 51 per cent in 2021, according to the 2021–22 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey released by the Ministry of Health in June.

“Exclusive breastfeeding among children aged 0-5 months increased from 11 per cent in 2000 to a peak of 74 per cent in 2010 and declined steadily from 65 per cent in 2014 to 51 per cent in 2021-22,” the survey said.

The government is officially committed to increasing the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for infants and children from 0-6 months up to 85 per cent by 2030, according to the survey report.