By Mehdi Garshasbi

Promoting breastfeeding: a shared responsibility

July 31, 2022 - 18:8

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from 1 to 7 August every year. Breastfeeding acts as babies’ first vaccine, protecting them against many common childhood illnesses.

While there has been some progress in breastfeeding rates in the last four decades – with a 50 percent increase in the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding globally – the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the fragility of those gains.

In many countries, the pandemic has caused significant disruptions in breastfeeding support services, while increasing the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition.

Several countries have reported that producers of baby foods have compounded these risks by invoking unfounded fears that breastfeeding can transmit COVID-19 and marketing their products as a safer alternative to breastfeeding.

Iran first in West Asia 

Iran ranks first in West Asia for breastfeeding of immature newborn infants, as 11 breast milk banks have been established in the country, the head of the mother’s milk bank of Al-Zahra hospital in the northwestern city of Tabriz said in August 2020.

In July 2016, the first breast milk bank was established in Iran. Breast milk donation is as important as blood donation due to saving the lives of so many premature babies in hospitals whose best nutrition is breast milk, Mohammad-Baqer Hosseini said.

In July 2016, the first breast milk bank was established in Al-Zahra Hospital of Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, with the financial support of the Ministry of Health.

Since then, 10 breast milk banks have been set up in the country, two of which are located in Tehran, and others in Mashhad, Zahedan, Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Shiraz, Kerman, Tabriz, and Yazd are active and one is being launched in Isfahan.

Recalling that breast milk banks are widely active all over the world, Hosseini said that milk banks have been active in European countries for nearly 100 years.

Worldwide, about 600 breast milk banks have been established, with the first established in Austria, he noted, adding that there are currently 210 breast milk banks in Europe and Brazil alone has 210 milk banks.

Human milk is pasteurized so that there is no risk of transmitting infectious diseases, even in the case of AIDS or any other diseases, he said.

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