Breastfeeding is a well-known maternal and neonatal health practice that powers significant health benefits for women and babies. Bangladesh is a country that has seen a substantial increase in breastfeeding rates in recent years (43 percent in 2007 to 64 percent in 2012) – a success that can be largely attributed to a combination of community mobilization, mass media campaigns and interpersonal communication around the importance of breastfeeding, comprehensive health worker training (a vital resource for positive nutritional education in the country), and the strategic use of data for advocacy for program design. Additionally, the Government of Bangladesh has committed to creating an enabling environment for breastfeeding, for example by instituting a state-allotted 6-month maternity leave. Bangladesh has received support from technical experts from the Alive and Thrive Initiative, BRAC, UNICEF, and civil society, to focus on reaching scale and addressing known barriers. From 2009 to November 2014, the Alive & Thrive Initiative launched a comprehensive program in the country to scale-up breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices and to reduce stunting and young child anemia.
Over the past eight years, exclusive breastfeeding in Bangladesh has increased by 13 percent. From 2009-2014, the Alive and Thrive Initiative contributed to the overall increase through a range of activities, including but not limited to:
- 1.7 million women, mothers of children under 2, were counseled on infant and young child feeding by more than 10,000 frontline workers
- Changes in exclusive breastfeeding were close to 25 percent higher in Alive and Thrive intervention areas
- Alive & Thrive broadcast seven TV spots nationwide, and features of the Alive & Thrive interpersonal and community mobilization approach were introduced by BRAC in 50 sub-districts and spread to 172 additional subdistricts through BRAC’s Essential Health Care Program and Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health Program.