The World Health Organization recently released ten facts on nutrition which apply to people worldwide. Amongst the ten, one really stands out;
"For healthier babies, WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, introducing age-appropriate and safe complementary foods at six months, and continuing breast-feeding for up to two years or beyond. Worldwide, about 20 % of deaths among children under-five could have been avoided if these feeding guidelines are followed. Appropriate feeding decreases rates of stunting and obesity and stimulates intellectual development in young children." (The World Health Organization, 2012).
This is a shocking statistic. The facts seem so simple, so why aren't they being practiced? When analyzing an issue like this, it is important to remember not to blame the victim. As described by MacDonald (2002), "the health field concept defined illness and disease as characteristics of individuals. Thus, the "victim" is blamed, at least implicitly, for being sick, and is held responsible for unhealthy lifestyle choices" (pp. 28). In this case, mothers are not disregarding these breast-feeding directives because they don't care about their babies. Health promotion and lifestyle modification are far more complex concepts than that. Clearly, there could be countless reasons why women may not be following this breast-feeding advice. For example, lack of access to the information itself, low health literacy, cultural beliefs, language barriers, lack of social support, lack of time/finances, and the list goes on. Health promotion just isn't as simple as telling someone what to do and expecting that they do it. In examining this issue it is important to remember that new mothers in countries all over the world are easy prey for multi-national companies who spare no expense to indoctrinate parents that their infant formulas are nutritional superior for babies.
Unfortunately, it would seem that the companies and organizations who are trying to sell us their products have far louder voices with significantly more resources than that of our experienced and educated health care providers. Furthermore, given that health care dollars are in short supply the world over, the solution to the problem of breastfeeding non-compliance is going to have to be creative and multifaceted. Fortunately, this particular health care issue is one of education and information dissemination and does not require specialized equipment, expensive medication, or advanced learning. The solutions can easily and economically begin at the community level and as resources allow extend upward through a variety of social and government levels. The mandate of all programs should be to promote the health and welfare of babies through breastfeeding.