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Mothers in Crisis! UNICEF’s Urgent Plea Sparks Tensions Globally: Are We Failing Our Newborns?

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As the world commemorates World Breastfeeding Week in the first week of August, Unicef makes an impassioned plea for increased backing from both the public and private sectors in a bid to empower all mothers, working mothers included, to successfully administer exclusive breastfeeding to their newborns.

“Studies show that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Thailand has seen a significant boost, doubling in the past few years. Nevertheless, a considerable number of children in Thailand are still denied the chance to have the best possible start in life,” expressed Kyungsun Kim, Unicef’s Representative for Thailand. “The magic of motherhood is encapsulated in breastmilk. Speaking as a mother though, I am well-aware of the challenges that breastfeeding presents, even more so when it comes to exclusively breastfeeding for at least six months, especially for mothers who juggle both child-rearing and professional life. Such mothers vitaly require support from family, healthcare professionals as well as their employers and colleagues in order to persist with breastfeeding, thereby ensuring their children gain the superior nourishment required for their optimal development.”

Indeed, breastmilk is the ultimate nutrition source for infants, teeming with the essential nutrients necessary for growth and optimal health. Breastfed children tend to be less vulnerable to conditions such as wasting and stunting, also faring better in terms of cognitive development compared to their non-breastfed counterparts. Both the World Health Organization and Unicef urge mothers to initiate breastfeeding within an hour of childbirth, consequently maintaining exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Following this period, mothers are advised to carry on breastfeeding whilst gradually introducing age-appropriate solid foods, continuing until the infant reaches two years of age.

In observance of this week, Unicef Thailand has initiated a social media push titled “The Masterpiece,” a public awareness venture aimed at reinforcing the collective responsibility of society towards promoting breastfeeding. The campaign cleverly reimagines the world’s most iconic artworks in a tribute to the cultural and historical significance of breastfeeding.

Current societal structures, however, often hinder breastfeeding, particularly for mothers in contemporary societies. Issues range from lack of prompt and effective support from healthcare providers in addressing lactation problems once mothers are discharged from the hospital, to resistance or lack of understanding from family members, who might be swayed by the aggressive marketing of infant formulas, falsely equating them to the nutritional richness of breastmilk.

Furthermore, a significant number of mothers find it increasingly challenging to maintain breastfeeding once they resume their work duties, primarily due to unsupportive work environments.

Unicef persists in its call for more robust family-friendly policies in workplaces, an essential factor in guaranteeing every child the best start in life. Proposals include a minimum six-month paid parental leave, provision of breastfeeding rooms and breaks, backing from employers and coworkers, and access to high-quality yet affordable childcare services.

Ensuring that every child is afforded the best start in life cannot be the sole responsibility of mothers but rather requires collective engagement. It is indeed the most prudent investment for the collective good of our society and our shared future,” Kim concluded.

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