Breastfeeding Can Save 200,000 Infants a Year, WHO Reports During World Breastfeeding Week

By Staff Reporter, Parent Herald August 01, 06:47 pm

World Breastfeeding Week is underway from August 1-7 and the World Health Organization is commemorating the event by reporting further good news to encourage more moms to breastfeed. The latest report notes that exclusive breast-feeding until six months of age could prevent the deaths of more than 200,000 infants each year.

According to the WHO, breast-feeding is the best source of nourishment for infants and young children, describing it as a practice with lifelong health benefits. The agency says people who were breast-fed as babies are, for example, less likely to be overweight or obese later in life, and may be less prone to diabetes and more likely to perform better in intelligence tests.

The WHO notes that infant formula does not contain the antibodies found in breast milk. It says infants in developing countries are at particular risk from the use of unsafe water and unsterilized equipment in making formula. It says babies can become malnourished because mothers may try to stretch supplies by over-diluting formula with water.

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated in 120 countries and marks the signing of the WHO/UNICEF document Innocenti Declaration, which lists the benefits of breastfeeding, plus global and governmental goals.

Breastfeeding contributes to the normal growth and development of babies/children, and babies/children who are not breastfed are at increased risk of infant morbidity and mortality, adult obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer in both the mother and baby, the event release states.

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a baby's life to optimize these benefits, continuing to breastfeed for 2 years and as long thereafter as is mutually desired by a woman and her child.

According to Dr. Carmen Casanovas, a breast-feeding expert with WHO's Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, nearly all mothers are physically able to breast-feed and will do so if they have accurate information and support. Current data shows that fewer than four out of 10 children in the world are currently exclusively breast-fed, the practice could save an estimated 220,000 infant lives annually.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that breastfeeding rates in the U.S. is up to 77 percent in 2012 from 71 percent in 2000 as more mothers try to breastfeed, even for a few months in the beginning of the baby's life. 

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