Breastfeeding could save one million babies every year, says World Vision
From Health Canal:
An increase in the number of women breastfeeding their babies could prevent more than one million deaths of children under five every year, says World Vision at the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7, 2011.
“Undernutrition causes the deaths of almost three million children under the age of five every year, and immediate, exclusive breastfeeding remains one of the safest, easiest and most sustainable ways of preventing this utter tragedy,” says World Vision Nutrition Director Carolyn MacDonald.
Babies who are not exclusively breastfed in the first few months are at seven times more risk of dying from diarrhoea than infants who are. Yet just over a third of babies around the world are immediately and exclusively breastfed.
“If all babies were fed only breast milk for the first six months of life, more than one million would be saved every year,” says MacDonald. “Breastfeeding provides an unequalled source of ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants, especially in the world’s poorest communities, where access to clean water, nutritious food, and reliable sanitation facilities are often little more than a dream.”
Immediate and exclusive breastfeeding, when a baby is breastfed within the first hour after birth and remains on nothing but breast milk for the first six months, is the preferred and promoted practice by health and nutrition specialists all over the world. When other complementary foods are added after six months, continuing breastfeeding up to 24 months of age – the critical window of child growth and development – continues the positive and protective effects of breast milk.
“We strive to promote breastfeeding even under the most difficult circumstances, such as in the context of HIV and AIDS or humanitarian emergencies, as it is the safest and best practice for protecting children’s survival, growth and development,” says MacDonald. “In too many developing countries and communities, there is no safe alternative so we can and must continue to educate that breast is best.”
Breast milk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects babies against infectious and chronic diseases. Immediate and exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, and builds the ability to fight illness when it strikes.
World Vision works with communities around the world, in both long-term programming and emergency responses, to build families’ ability to provide the best nutrition possible for their children, which includes immediate and exclusive breastfeeding. In a report released next month, World Vision looks into the issue of undernutrition – and what global leaders need to do to help tackle the world’s most serious health problems.
During world breastfeeding week, World Vision is calling on governments around the world to:
– Focus efforts on increasing the rates of exclusive breastfeeding in developing countries, acknowledging the more than one million lives that could be saved as a result.
– Ensure adequate, specific resourcing and commitment for comprehensive nutrition packages that include priority on immediate and exclusive breastfeeding in developing countries
– Pay closer attention to ensuring there are enough people, with the right knowledge and skills, working directly with families and communities, to support improved nutrition