The rate of children breastfed during the first six months of their lives in Vietnam is only 19.6 percent, the lowest in Southeast Asia, according to Vietnamese Ministry of Health statistics.
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The country leading the region is Myanmar, where 50 percent of all children are breastfed during their first six months, the ministry said.
The information was released by the ministry for World Breastfeeding Week 2014, which lasts from August 1 until August 8. This is an annual event conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote the awareness of the importance of breastfeeding for children’s growth, development, and physical and mental health.
Nemat Hajeebhoy, director of the Alive & Thrive Project in Vietnam, said that the rate of children exclusively breastfed during their first six months is under 20 percent.
This situation may result from the fact that many women have not been aware that breast milk is the best food for newborn babies, or they face difficulty in breastfeeding their children, Hajeebhoy said.
A survey of 3,000 women who gave birth at Hung Vuong Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City from February to May 2014 shows that 100 percent of these women brought baby formula with them when they arrived at the infirmary, Dr. Huynh Xuan Nghiem, Hung Vuong deputy director, said.
This is because these women did not believe they would have enough breast milk for their babies.
As many as 50 percent of these women thought that they would have no breast milk during the first two days after giving birth, so they fed their babies with formula milk during those days, Dr. Nghiem said.
Save The Children, an international non-governmental organization that promotes children’s rights and helps support children around the world, also warned that only one-fifth of infants in Vietnam are exclusively breastfed in their first six months.
The warning was released when the organization announced the result of a study last year, saying that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life can help reduce the death toll of newborn babies by 4,000 per year.
Accordingly, breastfeeding newborns in the first hour after birth will help prevent around 22 percent more babies from dying.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life not only improves their future growth and educational achievement, but also significantly reduces national health costs and helps prevent malnutrition, the organization said.