10 Countries With The Highest Breastfeeding Rates

Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. Before the advent of formula milk, mothers fed their babies their own milk as their only form of nourishment until they were at least a year old. However, when formula was invented and marketed, mothers found that they wanted their bodies back post haste and so they turned to formula as a substitute for breast milk.

In recent years, breastfeeding advocates have started actively promoting the benefits of breastfeeding to both mothers and babies. There are thousands of studies to support how much better it is than formula. In its advertising campaigns, formula milk companies have been required to use taglines like, “Breast milk is best for babies up to two years” to emphasize the importance of breast milk.

Mothers produce varying quantities of milk. There are mothers who lament, though, that they aren't able to produce enough for the baby. They are left frustrated and depressed at having to deal with a perennially hungry infant, who’s constantly in demand for more food. So they're forced to make the switch to formula.

There are ways to increase breastmilk supply, the most important of which is to drink lots of fluids. A dehydrated mother will not be able to produce the right amount of milk for her baby.

Next, express milk or make the baby latch as often as possible. Following the law of supply and demand, the more milk that flows out, the more milk is produced.

Lastly, invest in a good breast pump. That way, you don't have to be with your baby 24/7. You can use your pump to express your milk, store it, and leave it for the sitter to feed the baby with while you go out for your much needed me-time.

Simple steps right? Easy as it may be, you'll be quite surprised to find out which countries proudly have the most number of women who breastfeed and they're all from developing or third world countries.

These facts are based on women who have exclusively breastfed their babies for six months.

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10 Madagscar: 48%

The African nation of Madagascar is a beautiful island country in the Indian Ocean. This lush tropical country may be a developing nation, but Malagasy mothers comprise the tenth highest in the world when it comes to breastfeeding. This is due in part to its active promotion to mothers, especially since formula may be too expensive to the predominantly poor nation. A group called Linkages promote breastfeeding through counseling cards that stress the importance of making the baby latch immediately after birth to stimulate the milk supply. They also distribute newsletters and health booklets filled with the benefits of breastfeeding. Lastly, the group also hosts pre-natal classes, where songs on breastfeeding are sung.

9 Bolivia: 50%

Majority of the countries in South America are poor and Bolivia is one of the most destitute, with nearly two-thirds of its population living on $3 U.S a day. It’s about right that this country has a high breastfeeding rate because many can’t afford formula milk for their babies. Luckily, a group called PAHEF (Pan-American Health and Education Foundation) initiated a project to educate Bolivian mothers on the positive effects of breast feeding. Among the efforts done were a breastfeeding training program to educate pregnant women and proper diet to ensure the health of the mother and consequently, an abundance of breast milk.

8 Egypt and Iran: 56%

Both rich in history and occasionally wrought in strife, Egypt and Iran are both considered travel risks to tourists. The chaos is due in part to both countries’ generally poor population. Luckily, a significant amount of mothers in both countries have been properly informed on the benefits of breastfeeding. In Egypt, an educational program was developed to target mothers of preterm infants, a program which was successful in improving breastfeeding knowledge and practice to all Egyptian mothers in general.

In Iran, a national breastfeeding plan was implemented, a plan which included the training of those who aid in breastfeeding, such as nurses, midwives, and doctors; setting up baby-friendly hospitals; enhancing maternity leave policies for working mothers; and developing community outreach programs in support of breastfeeding mothers.

7 Uganda: 57%

Yet another poor African country has made it to the list. Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world, yet it’s also one of the youngest and most fertile. This entailed a more urgent need for education on childbirth and breastfeeding not just to mothers but to the general population. Hence, the decision of advocates to promote breastfeeding via mass media, which included public service announcements on radio, print, and TV. These efforts have resulted in well-informed mothers who actively and diligently breastfeed their babies.

6 Eritrea: 59%

Practically just a dot on the map, Eritrea is a country located in the Horn of Africa. However small as this nation is, it’s certainly not lacking in breastfeeding education, as organizations like WHO/UNICEF ensure that information is disseminated to expectant mothers and their support groups. Among the steps taken to ensure proper awareness are training all health care staff, prenatal seminars, encouraging the practice of rooming in the baby for easier access of feeding, and establishing breastfeeding support groups.

5 Peru: 71%

Another South American country has made it to the list. Peru is yet another poor country, with over 30% of its population living near the poverty line. Due to its poverty and breastfeedings benefit to the health, the Ministry of Health has taken great measures to ensure that mothers don't have to resort to buying expensive formula for their infants. In fact, Peru was the leader in breastfeeding advocacy in the 1980's. Although exclusive breastfeeding has somehow declined since then, the numbers are still high in comparison to many first world nations.

4 Malawi: 72%

Malawi, a sub-Saharan country in Africa, is one of the areas with the most widespread cases of AIDS/HIV. This disease has been a challenge in promoting a breastfeeding rate of 100% among mothers. Fortunately, studies have shown that an HIV-infected mother who breastfeeds carries only a 4% chance of transmitting the disease to her baby. Interestingly, the baby has more chances of acquiring HIV when drinking formula milk because of unsafe handling and preparation of the milk, water, and bottles. So with these statistics, women tend to prefer breastfeeding exclusively.

3 Cambodia, Solomon Islands, Nepal: 74%

It’s a three-way tie for third place: Cambodia, Solomon Islands, and Nepal. In Cambodia, breastfeeding rates were a mere 11% back in 2000. However, advocates launched a media campaign to promote the benefits of breastfeeding, the main message being breastfeeding decreases the risk of a child’s death before five years old. It took 10 years to see a significant increase in breastfeeding rates, thanks to the rampant media campaign and intensive training for nurses and caregivers who aid in breastfeeding.

2 Sri Lanka: 76%

It’s admirable that in this civil war-torn country, 76% of mothers exclusively breastfeed for six months. This figure, considering women are only entitled to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave upon giving birth. This means women are well-informed of the benefits of breastfeeding and manage to give milk for their babies even while they're at work. This is highly due to widespread education on the benefits of breastfeeding and perseverance of the mothers in giving their babies what they know is best for them.

1 Rwanda: 90%

An HIV-laden country has the highest breastfeeding rate in the world. Roughly 100,000 Rwandan women are suffering from the disease, yet 90% of mothers still manage to purely breastfeed their children. The United Nations has taken many steps to ensure these mothers breastfeed because they are taught to use proper HIV medication, which makes it possible to breastfeed babies for 18 months. Additionally, working mothers are given an hour of paid time off work every day to give them a chance to feed their babies directly. That’s more than enough incentive to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible!

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