Nutritional Support during Early Life

Breastfeeding is the normal food for infants from birth, as breastmilk provides the essential energy and nutrients for infants’ growth and development. Breastmilk has also been associated with benefits to both mother and infant.

World Health Organization (WHO) is working to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months up to at least 50% by 2025. In Asia, breastfeeding rates vary from country to country; and in Southeast Asia, it is estimated that 49 per cent of all infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months.

This variability in breastfeeding practices is influenced by socioeconomic and cultural factors.

One of the cultural factors is the fact that in many instances women do not decide by themselves about whether they will breastfeed, or for how long with their decisions often heavily influenced by family [1]. Other important socio-economic factors influencing breastfeeding are the absence of institutionalized maternity leave and the financial pressure for women to return to work.

Today, many women return to work soon after giving birth, and there is an absence in most settings, specific legal conditions governing breastfeeding in the workplace. This makes it difficult, if not impossible for mothers to continue breastfeeding. Changing this situation requires governments to initiate changes in three areas of national policy to support a mother’s ability to breastfeed – maternity leave, financial protection to help maintain the family’s income while the mother is not working, and workplace provisions to allow breastfeeding to continue once a mother returns to work.

APIYCNA recognizes that the right nutrition has a critical impact on a child’s growth and development. The pediatric nutrition industry has provided specialised nutrition suited to the specific needs of infants and young children, playing an important role in supporting growth and long-term health.

Infant Formula

•Sole or partially substitute breast milk from birth onwards. Only source of nutrition in first 6 months for some infants.

•Scientifically developed, infant formula contains all the necessary ingredients needed to meet the complete nutritional requirements of infants up to 6 months of age.

•Only proven safe alternative recognised by the WHO when mothers are unable to breast feed.

Complementary Feeding

•Liquid part of a diet for older infants (6-12 months) and young children (1 – 3 years) as part of a complementary diet.

•Scientifically developed, it contains added vitamins and minerals to support growth and developments.

•Used as a main source of nutrition while introducing a diversified diet.

Follow-up Formula

•Food, whether manufactured or locally prepared, suitable as a complement to breast milk or infant formula.

•The WHO recommends the introduction of complementary food at 6 month of age along with continued breastfeeding.

•At this age, breastmilk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of infants and the infant is developmentally ready to be introduced to other foods.

Useful links and resources:

Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding – The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding aims to revitalize efforts to promote, protect and support appropriate infant and young child feeding. It builds upon past initiatives, in particular the Innocenti Declaration and the Baby-friendly Hospital initiative and addresses the needs of all children including those living in difficult circumstances, such as infants of mothers living with HIV, low-birth-weight infants and infants in emergency situations.

Complementary feeding – WHO articles, recommendations and consultations related to complementary feeding.

Breastfeeding policy: a globally comparative analysis – This study analyses the number and nature of breastfeeding breaks that mothers are guaranteed so that women can breastfeed for the minimum 6 months recommended by WHO for breastfeeding. We then conduct the first analysis of how labour policies affect breastfeeding rates around the world. Understanding the relationships between national policy and breastfeeding rates is critically important because of the substantial health benefits of breastfeeding to infant and mother, in addition to the facts that the majority of pregnant women are now employed and that a sizable proportion of women prefer to breastfeed.

Continued breastfeeding for healthy growth and development of children – WHO articles on continued breastfeeding

Codex Alimentarius – Standard for Infant Formula and Formulas for Special Medical Purposes Intended for Infants – CODEX STAN 72 – 1981

Codex Alimentarius – Standard for Follow-up Formula – CODEX STAN 156-1987

[1] Save the Children (2013). Superfood for Babies: How overcoming barriers to breastfeeding will save children’s lives.