Stunted growth rate of children in Pakistan linked to low breastfeeding rates

Stunted growth rate of children in Pakistan linked to low breastfeeding rates

Pakistan's stunted growth rate is extremely high; according to the UNICEF, low breastfeeding rates are partly to blame.

A recent report has shown that the stunted growth rate of children in Pakistan is at an alarmingly high 44%, and it might have something to do with the low breastfeeding rates.

"Maybe it is because my breast milk is not good"

Mah Pari, a mother of seven from Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province, struggles to keep her two-year-old son, Gul Mir, well-fed. She shares, "All my babies were weak after they were born. Maybe it is because my breast milk is not good."

Many mothers in Pakistan feed their children tea, herbs, or baby formula, which might be part of the reason why they have such a high rate of stunted growth in children.

Mah Pari adds, "In our Balochi culture, we give battri, crushed herbs twice a day, morning and evening. "I also gave him tea and breast milk twice a day, in the morning and the evening." However, the daily recommendation should be at least 10-12 times per day.

She also said, "I work all day at home, I don't have time to breast feed," believing that traditional concoctions are actually better than breastmilk for her child.

"It's a massive emergency"

According to UNICEF, the high stunted growth rate in Pakistan can be attributed to a variety of risk factors: bad nutrition, unclean water, hygiene problems, and the mothers' lack of education.

The risks of malnutrition are also very real, as malnutrition can cause limited height, incomplete brain development, and a higher risk for disease.

Angela Kearney, head of UNICEF in Pakistan said that the situation "is a crisis, it's a massive emergency." She cites limited breastfeeding as a major cause of malnutrition in the area as only 38% of babies are fed exclusively on breast milk during the first six months. The low number of breastfeeding mothers is blamed on local tradition, workloads of the mothers, as well as intensive marketing by the milk industry.

Most mothers in Pakistan also choose to throw away the nutritious first milk that their breasts produce, called colostrum. Samina, a mother, shares that "We... throw that milk, throw it aside, because the colour is yellow and it is watery."

To combat the widespread misinformation, the UNICEF is campaigning for families and doctors to support breastfeeding as the primary choice in feeding babies. They're also trying to educate mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding.

Go to the next page to learn more about getting your child started on breastfeeding!

Getting started with breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the best and healthiest option when it comes to feeding your baby. Additionally, breastfeeding also benefits mothers, and it's free! That's why breastfeeding is a win-win situation for both moms and babies.

Here are a few tips to help get you started!

  1. Prepare in advance. The choice to breastfeed your baby should begin during pregnancy. That way, you can start preparing early by joining classes and reading up on breastfeeding tips.
  2. Get relaxed. When you start breastfeeding, make sure to find a good, relaxed position where you're comfortable feeding your baby for long periods of time.
  3. The sooner, the better. You should start breastfeeding your baby as soon as you give birth. Starting them early and breastfeeding for as long as possible is the best way to ensure your baby grows up healthy!
  4. Know the signs of a good latch. Finding a good latch is the first major hurdle for breastfeeding moms. To know if the latch is good, your baby's lips should be spread out and not tucked under your areola and nipple.
  5. Know any problem signs. A bit of soreness or tenderness is normal during the start of breastfeeding. However, the pain shouldn't last throughout the entire breastfeeding session. If you sense any problems, feel free to consult your doctor.

READ: New mom shares the “unspoken reality” of breastfeeding struggles


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