Target: Secretariat of Health, Mexico
Goal: Improve public health by emphasizing the importance of breastfeeding in the first six months of infancy.
The World Health Organization recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed during their first six months. Only one in seven Mexican mothers meet this standard. Mexico’s high infant mortality rate is correlated with its low level of breastfeeding mothers. In areas of extreme poverty, infants are exposed to sanitation problems and are more likely to die of pneumonia and diarrhea caused by waterborne pathogens.
Breast milk contains antibodies that protect newborns from infections. Mixing infant formula with unsafe water, using unsterile equipment, and the potential presence of bacteria in the powdered formula present risks of developing illnesses. Diluting formula can stretch supplies further for poor families, but malnutrition can result. A mother’s milk is healthier than infant formula and it’s free. Breast milk provides complete nutrition that infants need for healthy development. There is no need for mixing or extra equipment, so it is completely safe in areas with poor water quality.
There is overwhelming evidence that breastfeeding contributes to lifelong wellness for both mothers and their children. Adults who were breastfed as babies often have lower rates of obesity, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and are less likely to have type-two diabetes. Breastfeeding reduces the risks of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Women who breastfeed exclusively do not ovulate in the first six months after birth and experience the benefit of natural birth control. The practice is also associated with lower rates of obesity among mothers.
In order to improve public health by decreasing its high infant mortality rate, Mexico must adopt laws to regulate the marketing of breast-milk to health workers and mothers instead of allowing companies to self-regulate. The international code adopted by the World Health Organization since 1981 asks countries to restrict companies from providing free samples of formula or approaching new mothers to sell their product. The country’s laws must also prohibit promotional samples being distributed by doctors to women with children under one year of age.
Doctors and other health workers should promote breastfeeding through increased education that stresses the benefits of breast milk and the dangers of using powdered formulas, especially in rural areas with unsanitary drinking water. Lactation specialists and counselors can provide guidance and support through the process of breastfeeding.
Urge Mexico to highlight the importance of breastfeeding and take measures to improve public health by signing this petition.
Dear Secretariat of Health,
The low level of breastfeeding among Mexican mothers is a cause of concern, considering the high infant mortality rate, risk of illness from waterborne pathogens, and economic hardships faced by many families. I urge you to promote breastfeeding in Mexico by requiring health workers and infant formula makers to comply with the World Health Organization’s guidelines regarding the recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding within the first six months and restrictions on marketing formula to women with children under a year old.
Encouraging mothers to breast feed can help save the lives of babies born in rural areas where drinking water is not safe and there is a high possibility of infection. It also makes more sense for families to not have to buy formula when mothers can produce the most nutritious option for free.
The practice of breastfeeding can improve the health of the population as a whole. A wealth of research shows that proper infant nutrition from breastfeeding not only contributes to healthy childhood development, individuals also benefit from lower risks of developing diseases as adults, and women who breastfeed reduce their risk of ovarian and breast cancers.
Mexico must work in the best interest of the public and limit abuse from infant formula companies by adopting laws that will regulate marketing per the World Health Organization’s guidelines. Health workers of Mexico have the potential to promote breastfeeding through increased patient education. Further guidance should be provided through trained counselors and lactation specialists.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Eli Duke via Flickr