Goal Number and TargetsContribution of Infant and Young Child feeding5
1Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day, and who suffer from hunger.
Breastfeeding significantly reduces early childhood feeding costs, and exclusive breastfeeding halves the cost of breastfeeding6. Exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding for two years is associated with reduction in underweight7 and is an excellent source of high quality calories for energy. By reducing fertility, exclusive breastfeeding reduces reproductive stress. Breastfeeding provides breast milk, serving as low-cost, high quality, locally produced food and sustainable food security for the child.
2Achieve universal primary education
Ensure that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary education.
Breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding are prerequisites for readiness to learn8.
Breastfeeding and quality complementary foods significantly contribute to cognitive development and capacity. In addition to the balance of long chain fatty acids in breast milk, which support neurological development, initial exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding address micronutrient and iron deficiency needs and, hence, support appropriate neurological development and enhance later school performance.
3Promote gender equality and empower women
Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005 and in all levels of education no later than 2015.
Breastfeeding is the great equalizer, giving every child a fair start on life. Most differences in growth between sexes begin as complementary foods are added into the diet, and gender preference begins to act on feeding decisions. Breastfeeding also empowers women:

increased birth spacing secondary to breastfeeding helps prevents maternal depletion from short birth intervals;


only women can provide it, enhancing women’s capacity to feed children;


increases focus on need for women’s nutrition to be considered.

4Reduce child mortality
Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.
By reducing infectious disease incidence and severity, breastfeeding could readily reduce child mortality by about 13%, and improved complementary feeding would reduce child mortality by about 6%.9 In addition, about 50–60% of under-5 mortality is caused by malnutrition due to inadequate complementary foods and feeding following on poor breastfeeding practices10 and, also, to low birth weight. The impact is increased in unhygienic settings. The micronutrient content of breast milk, especially during exclusive breastfeeding, and from complementary feeding can provide essential micronutrients in adequate quantities, as well as necessary levels of protein and carbohydrates.
5Improve maternal health
Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.
The activities called for in the Global Strategy include increased attention to support for the mother’s nutritional and social needs. In addition, breastfeeding is associated with decreased maternal postpartum blood loss, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer, as well as the probability of decreased bone loss post-menopause. Breastfeeding also contributes to the duration of birth intervals, reducing maternal risks of pregnancy too close together, including lessening risk of maternal nutritional depletion from repeated, closely-spaced pregnancies. Breastfeeding promotes return of the mother’s body to pre-pregnancy status, including more rapid involution of the uterus and postpartum weight loss (obesity prevention).
6Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Based on extrapolation from the published literature on the impact of exclusive breastfeeding on MTCT, exclusive breastfeeding in a population of untested breastfeeding HIV-infected population could be associated with a significant and measurable reduction in MTCT.
7Ensure environmental sustainabilityBreastfeeding is associated with decreased milk industry waste, pharmaceutical waste, plastics and aluminium tin waste, and decreased use of firewood/fossil fuels for alternative feeding preparation,11 less CO2 emission as a result of fossil fuels, and less emissions from transport vehicles as breast milk is locally produced.
8Develop a global partnership for developmentThe Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding fosters multi-sectoral collaboration, and can build upon the extant partnerships for support of development through breastfeeding and complementary feeding. In terms of future economic productivity, optimal infant feeding has major implications.

Early and Exclusive Breastfeeding, continued breastfeeding with complementary feeding and related maternal nutrition.


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Dewey KG. Cross-cultural patterns of growth and nutritional status of breast-fed infants. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1998;67:10–17. [PubMed: 9440369]


Anderson JW, Johnstone BM, Remley DT. Breast-feeding and cognitive development: a meta-analysis. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1990;70:525–535. [PubMed: 10500022]


Jones G, et al. How many child deaths can we prevent this year? Lancet. 2003;362:65–71. [PubMed: 12853204]


Pelletier D, Frongillo E. Changes in child survival are strongly associated with changes in malnutrition in developing countries. Journal of Nutrition. 2003;133:107–119. [PubMed: 12514277]


Labbok M. Breastfeeding as a women’s issue: conclusions and consensus, complementary concerns, and next actions. International Journal of Gynecology Obstetrics. 1994;47(Suppl):S55–S61. [PubMed: 7713307]


Cover of Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative: Revised, Updated and Expanded for Integrated Care.
Copyright © 2009, World Health Organization and UNICEF.

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