Breastfeeding: the most advanced specific personalized medicine – El Sol de México

“Human milk is not only the perfectly tailored nutritional supply for the infant, but probably the most advanced specific personalized medicine that they will receive throughout their life, given at a time when genetic expression is being delineated for life” (Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect published in The Lancet in 2016).

Breastfeeding is one of the most effective actions to increase chances of survival, protect against infectious and chronic diseases in the short and long term, improve proper sensory, cognitive, motor and affective development, as well as the nutrition and growth of girls and boys. In addition, among other benefits for mothers, it reduces the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

Despite its multiple benefits and being a cost-effective strategy, according to the 2018-2019 National Health and Nutrition Survey, only 3 out of 10 girls and boys are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life.

According to the indicators of breastfeeding from this same source published in the Early Childhood Indicators System (SIPI Mexico), 41.9% of girls and boys between 6 and 11 months had adequate breastfeeding and 34.3% of girls and children between 6 and 23 months. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding on demand for the first 6 months of life and continuously for up to 2 years of life.

Within the Sustainable Development Goals – a global master plan of 17 goals to achieve a sustainable future with less inequality – breastfeeding is key, as it is directly aligned with nutrition and food security to reduce inequalities between countries. However, we are far from achieving the goal, since our exclusive breastfeeding rate is 28%, in contrast to the 50% that we want to achieve in 2025.

The 7th National Forum on Breastfeeding, promoted by the Pact for Early Childhood, highlighted various red flags that hinder breastfeeding, such as the promotion of substitutes, few public and private spaces for breastfeeding in the workplace, limited maternity leave and the interference of the milk formula industry in public nutrition and breastfeeding policies.

From the forum some specific recommendations stand out:

  • Encourage breastfeeding by improving the quality of counseling in the health field. Always respecting that breastfeeding is different for each woman.

  • Sanction and ensure compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes – whose objective is to stop the aggressive and undue marketing of breast milk substitutes. Specifying that frequently the promotion of the use of these breast milk substitutes comes from medical personnel.

  • Strengthen the multisectoral breastfeeding support chain to raise awareness and sensitize public and private spaces, mainly highlighting the importance of it within daycare centers and educational centers.

  • Implement public policies in favor of breastfeeding within the workplace, favoring a friendly and respectful environment.

  • Promotion of maternity leave with special emphasis on the informal sector.

For decades, research on the role of early childhood development has increased. Specifically, breastfeeding studies show extensive benefits. The Early Institute -a think tank specializing in early childhood- recognizes this stage as a window of opportunity to improve not only the nutrition, health, education, safety and well-being of each boy and girl, but also the social and economic well-being of society in as a whole in the short and long term.

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