Mothers are increasingly shunning breastfeeding and giving their children formula due to aggressive advertising, health officials and NGOs have warned.
The Ministry of Health and charity workers yesterday came together to address the issue at a workshop, calling on mothers to choose breast milk for children whenever they can.
The National Centre For Maternal and Child Health meeting was called to develop a campaign to promote breastfeeding, intended to educate families about the benefits of breast milk.
Prak Sophorn Neary, deputy director of the centre, said community campaigns would be held throughout the country for the entire month of August.
“We hope this campaign will benefit mothers and teach them how their breast milk has many benefits for children’s growth,” she said.
She recommended that mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, and up to age two if possible.
According to the Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey, 64 percent of mothers were breastfeeding in 2010, but this had fallen to 34 percent by 2014.
Hou Kroeun, deputy country director for health charity Helen Keller International, said the decline was a concern because some women were misled into believing that feeding their children formula had more benefits than breast milk.
“Breastfeeding is down due to the advertisement of formula milk, which is misinforming women about its effects,” Mr Kroeun said.
David Raminashvili, an official at World Vision International, said action must be taken to examine the advertising of formula at the same time as any campaign to promote breastfeeding.
Se Rey Roath, a mother from Phnom Penh, said she knew breast milk was very important for children’s health and growth, but argued some mothers were so busy working that they did not have enough time for breastfeeding.
“I could only breastfeed my children for between three and six months. I know breast milk is best but I had no choice,” she said.