Breastfeeding is seen differently not just on a personal level from one person to another, but from one community to another and even from one country to another. One of the common factors in all countries views on breastfeeding is the amount of education and marketing. The ones that promote breastfeeding realize not just the financial strain formula will cause a family, but more importantly the health gain both mother and baby will benefit from. Below is a list of the top 10 countries with the highest breastfeeding rates along with some information on a few of them.
- Madagascar 48%: Being that it is such a poor nation, its mothers cannot afford to pay for formula and are thus blessed with enriching their baby’s life with breast milk
- Bolivia 50%: Very similar to Madagascar with it’s high poverty rate
- Egypt and Iran 56%: In Iran, a national breastfeeding plan was implemented, a plan which included the training of those who aid in breastfeeding, such as nurses, midwives, and doctors; setting up baby-friendly hospitals; enhancing maternity leave policies for working mothers; and developing community outreach programs in support of breastfeeding mothers
- Uganda 57%:6. Eritria 59%:
5. Peru 71%: In the 80’s Peru was the leading in breastfeeding rates. It has had a small decline, however still very strong in numbers
4. Malawi 72%: Malawi, a sub-Saharan country in Africa, is one of the areas with the most widespread cases of AIDS/HIV. This disease has been a challenge in promoting a breastfeeding rate of 100% among mothers. Fortunately, studies have shown that an HIV-infected mother who breastfeeds carries only a 4% chance of transmitting the disease to her baby. Interestingly, the baby has more chances of acquiring HIV when drinking formula milk because of unsafe handling and preparation of the milk, water, and bottles. So with these statistics, women tend to prefer breastfeeding exclusively.[i]
3. Cambodia, Solomon Islands and Nepal 74%: Cambodia jumped from a small 11% to 74% within 14 years. That’s a huge jump thanks to major marketing and education.
- Sri Lanka 76%: This is in spite of women having to go back to work 12 weeks after the birth. Granted that is a paid maternity leave that not even the US offers its mothers1. Rwanda 90%: With proper education and regular HIV medication, women are encouraged to breastfeed their baby’s till 18 months. Working mothers are given an hour of paid time off work every day to give them a chance to feed their babies directly. That’s more than enough incentive to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible[ii].
When looking through both UNICEF as well as the W.H.O (World Health Organization), I was unable to find statistics on Israel’s breastfeeding rates. I did however find it on National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) which is a reliable source for statistics and information regarding many things medical. Here is what they had to say; Although the rate of breast-feeding initiation in central Israel was 78.5%, only 29.9% of the mothers continue to breast-feed for 6 months. Already at a young age, an appreciable number of breast-fed infants receive infant formula. Breast-feeding promotion should focus on less educated women, homemakers, and families with one to four children.[iii]. In 2012, the Israeli parliament tried to pass a bill that will stop the flow of formula in hospitals, and begin stronger advocacy towards breastfeeding. I have yet to find out if the bill has been passed, but the initiation is a good one. I found an amazing article written by an IBCLC and a LLL Leader who is trying to help change the way Israel sees breastfeeding. Check it out at http://lactationmatters.org/2012/08/02/wbw-israel/ .
It is amazing to see that USA and Canada are not on this list. Canada has a one year paid maternity leave. They have free breastfeeding clinics and have even begun human milk for human baby milk banks (available in all provinces). The US as well has many banks. It is a wonderful initiative that will take time to see the true difference its making. I look forward to the time when breastfeeding professionals are not considered extremists for promoting breastfeeding education. I look forward to seeing the statistics and acceptance grow.