Skilled breastfeeding counselling
Breastfeeding is a pillar of child health, survival and development, and has positive health effects for women. Policies that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding can improve health and cognitive development for infants and young children, leading to better learning, educational attainment and productivity, increased household wages, and economic benefits. Increasing breastfeeding worldwide to recommended levels would prevent 820,000 child deaths. Long-term health benefits for children are also considerable as breastfeeding help reduce child and adult risk of overweight, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Babies should be put immediately in skin-to-skin contact to enable breastfeeding within the first hour of life, breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and continue breastfeeding up to two years or beyond. Recent estimates suggest that only 49 per cent of babies start breastfeeding in the first hour of life. About 44 per cent of infants less than 6 months of age are exclusively breastfed, and the rate of continued breastfeeding at 2 years of age is also 44 per cent.
Skilled breastfeeding counselling is key to improving breastfeeding rates. The World Health Organization has developed a set of guidelines that define the expected services and staff competencies required to deliver high-quality breastfeeding counselling. The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard indicates that the coverage of skilled breastfeeding counselling is suboptimal. Countries must do better to provide quality skilled breastfeeding counselling to all families to ensure equitable care and improved outcomes.