In a new Save the Children report, Superfood for Babies, the charity says the lives of 95 babies could be saved every hour – 830,000 a year – if new mothers around the world breastfed immediately after giving birth.
If babies receive colostrum – the mother’s first milk – within an hour of birth, it will kick start the child’s immune system, making them three times more likely to survive. And, if the mother continues feeding for the next six months, then a child growing up in the developing world is up to 15 times less likely to die from killer diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Save the Children says the enormous progress already made in reducing child mortality could be accelerated if more mums were encouraged to breastfeed.
Commenting on the report, Professor Uauy, a world authority on infant feeding, said: “Breastfeeding is available to all mothers – rich and poor. It allows mothers to continue to support their child’s growth and development in a way that is unparalleled by any other form of feeding.
“Exclusive breast feeding to six months is the single most effective measure to prevent child malnutrition and to reduce deaths from infections and from sudden infant death (cot deaths). It also promotes healthy growth and brain development.”
Save the Children says women who give birth with the help of skilled birth attendants are twice as likely to breastfeed in the first crucial hour and that plugging a critical gap of 3.5 million health workers would dramatically increase the number of breastfeeding mums.
The charity also highlights questionable marketing practices adopted by some breast milk substitute companies active in emerging markets. Their report cites examples of marketing activity which violate the internationally agreed code for marketing of breast milk substitutes.
Image: Cover of the Superfood for Babies report