About 30 percent of the 7 million children under five years old in Vietnam suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition, ranked 13th in the world, the Health Ministry reported.
The figures were released at a recent conference to review the 5-year implementation of Decree 21 by the Government on breastfeeding and using nutritious products for children.
Stunted growth, which reflects shortness for age, results from the malnutrition suffered by the fetus and by the baby in its first 2 months of life, the ministry said.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months would help boost growth and reduce mortality among children below five by 13 percent, but only 10 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed in the first six months after birth, the ministry said, warning they are more at risk from diseases.
The ministry blamed the situation on excessive advertising in baby milk products and on the short maternity leave – just 4 months.
The more baby milk formula is advertized on the media, the more the rate of breastfeeding declines, the ministry warned.
Just 10% exclusively breastfed
Decree 21, issued in 2006, bans hospitals from introducing or selling to parents formula milk for under-12-month-old babies, but a study recently conducted by UNICEF at many obstetrics hospitals nationwide showed that mothers often used formula according to advice from health workers.
At a recent seminar titled “Boosting breastfeeding in Vietnam” in Hanoi, Nguyen Duc Vinh, deputy head of the Department of Health of Mothers and Children, said that only 61 percent of the babies born last year were breastfed within the first hour after birth.
Of the estimated 1.5 million children born in Vietnam every year, half are not breastfed immediately after birth, he said.
If all women suckle their babies, they will save some US$594 million a year on treatment for illnesses caused by to low-quality or contaminated formula milk, he added.