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21-02-2013 | General practice | Article

Increasing breastfeeding ‘should be global priority’

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medwireNews: Save the Children is calling on world leaders, international institutions, and multinational companies to act to increase breastfeeding rates, especially in the poorest countries.

The UK charity says that if all infants received colostrum during their first hour of life, 830,000 newborn deaths could be prevented each year.

The Superfood for Babies report says that while global childhood mortality is decreasing, a growing number of babies die within the first month of life. Encouraging mothers to breastfeed could accelerate child mortality reduction.

"Around one in eight of the young lives lost each year could be prevented through breastfeeding, making it the most effective of all ways to prevent diseases and malnutrition that can cause child deaths," the report states.

However, lack of health workers, inadequate legislation around maternity leave, and aggressive marketing tactics by formula milk manufacturers are stifling breastfeeding rates and, in some cases, sending them into decline.

The report says that more must be done to tackle harmful breastfeeding practices, and women must be empowered to make their own decisions about breastfeeding. It recommends that healthcare systems must be strengthened to have a health worker present at every birth - something that currently fails to happen at four in 10 births worldwide. The report also calls on all governments to have breastfeeding-friendly legislation to ensure women receive at least 14 weeks' maternity pay and can breastfeed in the workplace.

Additionally, it advocates a heavy hand for manufacturers of breast milk substitutes, saying senior employees should be held personally accountable when their companies violate the "International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes," and that the United Nations should name and shame those who flout the rules.

The report is published ahead of the G8 summit which will be held in the UK in June, preceded by a "hunger summit" hosted by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron. The charity says leaders should use the opportunity to put breastfeeding at the top of the agenda.

Save the Children Chief Executive, Justin Forsyth, said in a press statement: "The world is at tipping point and we could be the generation to stop children dying from preventable disease and malnutrition. This year's G8 - with the UK in the driving seat - is a once in a lifetime opportunity to focus effort on a final push to end hunger.

Photo credit: Suzanne Lee"

medwireNews (www.medwirenews.com) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Kirsty Oswald, medwireNews Reporter

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