Global Health Observatory (GHO) data

Infants under six months of age exclusively breastfed

Situation and trends

Breast milk gives infants all the nutrients they need, is safe, and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses. Early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age prevent deaths from pneumonia, diarrhoea and neonatal sepsis. Optimal breastfeeding has been estimated to avert about 12% of all under-five deaths. [Source: Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition, 2013. Paper 1]

Exclusive breastfeeding among infants less than six months of age is 36% globally (during the period of 2006–2013). This percentage is particularly low in the Western Pacific, where fewer than one out of three infants less than six months old is exclusively breastfed.

Support for early initiation, exclusive breastfeeding of infants for six months, and continued breastfeeding for two years has the potential to make a major contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Breastfeeding programmes should emphasize early initiation, exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and continuation through 24 months. This has particular relevance for sub-Saharan Africa, where neonatal and infant mortality rates are highest.