In Latin America and the Caribbean, only 4 in 10 babies under 6 months are exclusively breastfed

Panama City, Panama. August 4, 2023 – According to recent evidence from UNICEF, in Latin America and the Caribbean, only 431 Exclusive breastfeeding of infants under six months (world average of 48%) compared to only 48%2 1% of boys and girls aged 12 to 23 months are still breastfeeding (compared to a world average of 65%). These latest figures on breastfeeding practices place the region below the world average.

“Unfortunately, in Latin America and the Caribbean, most babies under six months are not exclusively breastfed,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Gary Conier.

“We will not be able to prevent all forms of malnutrition or promote the well-being of children without a more committed approach to promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding. We will not be able to achieve sustainable development if we continue on this path The goal is to achieve 70% exclusive breastfeeding by 2030.”
– Gary Conier, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean

In Latin America and the Caribbean, there are several reasons against this practice, one of which is the difficulty of making breastfeeding and work life compatible. On its own, family support and care policies in the region still do not provide the necessary support for nursing mothers. Currently, only 14 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean guarantee the minimum 14 weeks of maternity leave recommended by the International Labor Organization. Only 6 countries extend maternity leave to 18 weeks.3

The challenges faced by mothers breastfeeding their babies are also evident in the private accordance with A survey of 305 companies in the region by UNICEF and DeloitteOn average, companies offer 13 weeks of paid parental leave to full-time employees. In terms of paternity leave, large companies guarantee an average of 11 days, while SMEs give around 9 days. While 68% of large companies surveyed have nursing rooms for nursing mothers, only 29% of small and medium-sized businesses surveyed have such facilities.

In addition to its importance to health, breastfeeding also has a major economic impact. It is estimated that for every dollar invested in promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding, there is a long-term economic benefit of $35.4. This smart investment can also reduce the financial burden on health systems by reducing childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia.

Over the past two years, UNICEF has worked with governments, businesses and trade unions on advocacy campaigns To promote breastfeeding in the workplace in Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes webinars, trainings and events designed to raise awareness and educate people about the importance of breastfeeding. Likewise, technical support was provided to facilitate the installation of nursing rooms in working environments.

However, significant gaps remain. “Mothers don’t have to choose between breastfeeding and working. Both governments and employers need to provide the necessary support so mothers can breastfeed, have a safe space in the work environment to feed their babies or express breast milk, and provide breaks conducive to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is essential for the health and development of children and mothers,” affirmed the Regional Director.

On the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF calls on governments, public agencies and the private sector to:

  • Provide adequate paid parental leave for workers to meet the care needs of their children. This includes:
    • Ensure paid maternity leave with adequate protection for breastfeeding for at least 18 weeks and ideally six months after childbirth;
    • Extend paid paternity leave to promote a protective environment for breastfeeding.
  • Ensure a supportive breastfeeding environment for all mothers in paid work, including those in the informal sector or on temporary contracts. This includes:
    • Provide regular breastfeeding breaks during working hours;
    • Adequate facilities are in place to enable mothers to continue breastfeeding;
    • Ensure flexible options for return to work and breastfeeding breaks.
  • Increase investment in policies and programs to support breastfeeding in all settings, including the health sector, especially in situations of crisis and food insecurity.


Editor’s note:

About Deloitte and UNICEF research

In 2022, UNICEF and Deloitte South Latin America published a report entitled What are companies doing for children and young people? , a regional report that takes stock of what companies in 13 Latin American countries are doing on behalf of children and young people in three areas (workplace, market). , and community and environment).

Documentation is available here: link

A week about breastfeeding

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated in the first week of August every year with the support of WHO, UNICEF and many health ministries and civil society partners. This year’s theme, which focuses on promoting breastfeeding in the workplace, presents a strategic opportunity to advocate for basic maternity rights in support of breastfeeding: a minimum of 18 weeks of maternity leave, preferably a longer period of 6 months, followed by Adjustment. These are pressing issues to ensure women can breastfeed when they want: more than 500 million working women lack basic maternity supplies; and many more find themselves without support when they return to work.

Regional landing pages on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week can be found here: link

Multimedia material is available here: LINK

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