Breastfeeding: Barriers and Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean
Breastfeeding saves lives. Not only because it provides protection and nutrition to newborns, but also because it guarantees food security through access to the quantity, quality, availability, and use of nutrients. However, in the Latin American and Caribbean region, only 37% of children are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. This is due to many barriers, such as the lack of regulation of marketing campaigns for artificial foods, the lack of funding for programmes that promote, protect and support breastfeeding, limited support from health staff to women and families during the breastfeeding period, and also due to bias against breastfeeding.
Another important barrier in the region is the lack of access to maternity and paternity leave. Currently, in Latin America, only 28% of countries offer maternity leave of more than 14 weeks. This probably makes it difficult to provide breast milk in accordance with World Health Organization recommendations.
To face these barriers, Save the Children in Latin America and the Caribbean has developed programmes that aim to promote, protect and support breastfeeding with cash transfers. We provide families with nutrition information; we support spaces for breastfeeding mothers to be accompanied and refer them to other services. We work with communities to strengthen the chain of care around breastfeeding and offer training in breastfeeding to community members, non-governmental organizations, and health staff.
Visiting Save the Children's programmes, I have seen the importance of kindness and the sense of trust that can be built with the community. By giving them the tools, families can make decisions in favor of their children's health, and they can counteract misinformation and fake news.
Parents and caregivers only want the best for their children but what they are all often missing is information and support. Therefore, this year, World Breastfeeding Week seeks to promote Breastfeeding through support and education as it is even more needed in today’s challenging environment: the effects of the pandemic, the migration crisis, hunger, and climate change. Protecting breastfeeding requires all members of society to take an active role in supporting it. I invite you to ask yourself how you can support breastfeeding. Academics, legislators, non-governmental organizations, environmentalists, faith-based organizations, youth, health workers, businesspeople, and media can also help spread the message that breastfeeding can save lives.