HA NOI (VNS)— Only 20 per cent of surveyed children are breastfed until they are 24 months old, even though health experts recommend doing so.
|Only 20% of children are being breastfed until they are 24 months old, finds survey
Medical staff teach a mother breastfeeding methods at Tuyen Quang General Hospital in Tuyen Quang Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc
The rate was found by a survey conducted in eight provinces and cities by the Viet Nam Academy of Social Sciences' Institute for Family and Gender Studies.
The survey aimed to provide background information for the country's mission to reduce malnutrition rate, which was found to be 27.5 per cent among children under five nationwide.
The nation's goal is to reduce this percentage to 15 by 2015.
While up to 70 per cent of mothers reported knowing that health experts recommended breastfeeding children until they turned two, in practice many failed to do so.
Mothers explained that they ran out of breast milk or had to return to work early, said Nguyen Huu Minh, the institute's director.
Instead of breastfeeding, a majority of mothers feed their children solid food at an earlier age than recommended.
Around 60 per cent of mothers feed their children complementary foods when the babies are one to five months old, although health experts recommend waiting six months, he added.
This is a problem because many of the complementary foods that mothers feed their 7-to-24 month-old children do not meet nutritional requirements.
Professor Nguyen Cong Khanh, chairman of the Viet Nam Paediatrics Association, said that the period between 7-36 months is when children are most vulnerable to malnutrition.
Thus, mothers need to be encouraged to breastfeed their children until they are 24 months old, Khanh said.
An amendment to the Labour Code that goes into effect in May lengthens maternity leave to six months from four, which will likely increase the rate of children being breast-fed, the professor added.
He suggested that policies emphasise that complementary foods must provide full nutrition for children between the ages of seven months and three years.
In addition, nutrition during the fetal period should receive more attention, as scientists believed that this period is instrumental in determining children's later health, he said. The survey was conducted with support from TNS, a world leader in market research. — VNS