Today, WHO and its Member States in the South-East Asia Region mark the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, a week-long celebration to protect, promote and support breastfeeding, and to help institutionalize breastfeeding within health care systems. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years and beyond, provides an infant the best start possible to life. Breast-milk is safe and clean, and provides the energy and nutrients an infant needs for the first few months of life. It continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year. Early initiation of breastfeeding, within one hour of birth, protects the newborn from infectious and chronic diseases, and reduces newborn mortality. It facilitates emotional bonding of mother and baby and has a positive impact on the duration of exclusive breastfeeding. In the South-East Asia Region, rates for the early initiation of breastfeeding vary, from a high of 89% to a low of 42%.

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