Breastfeeding can boost economies, save children's lives

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Only 23 countries said that 60% of their mothers exclusively breastfed at six months onwards: Bolivia, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Micronesia, Federated States of Nauru, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, São Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Timor-Leste, Uganda, Vanuatu and Zambia.

Doctors say breastfeeding has important health benefits for both the mother and the baby and it also helps develop an emotional bond between them.

The collective said it is critical for breastfeeding to be initiated within one hour of birth and continued exclusively for six months, and then continued with complementary foods until the infant reaches two years of age.

"The low rate of exclusive breastfeeding leads to more than 100,000 child deaths and translates into nearly $12 billion in future economic losses for the country which is being incurred in terms of health facilities, hospital space, logistics, investments, overhead cost among others".

Dr Abo Hamed said that any amount of breast milk is beneficial, and the longer mothers breastfeed their babies, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.

Globally, investment in breastfeeding is far too low, according to the report.

As per the suggestions of The Investment Case for Breastfeeding, the lives of 520,000 children who are under 5 years old can be saved if this target is achieved.

The investment case also throws light to the fact that in China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria, which are the world's five emerging economies, approximately 236,000 children die every year, causing an economic loss of USA $ 119 billion due to the lack of investment in breastfeeding.

Present annual funding is at $85 million by donors and $250 million by governments in low and middle income countries.

As part of the Global Breastfeeding Collective, Unicef has called for increased financing and better implementation of policies, programmes and interventions to provide mothers the support the need to breastfeed.

The UN agencies, therefore, called on countries to invest in educational campaigns and health programmes to encourage breastfeeding as well as enforcing an global code to prevent the misleading marketing of formula milk.

No country does enough to help mothers breastfeed their babies for the recommended minimum of six months, a United Nations -backed study said on Tuesday, as it called for governments to clamp down on baby-formula marketing and pass laws for paid maternity leave.

According to Kusha, studies have shown that breastfeeding also significantly cuts the risk of babies being hospitalized for respiratory, urinary and gastroenterological infections, as well as having fever or ear infections, suffering sudden infant death syndrome or eventually developing asthma and type I diabetes.

She said: "We warmly welcome this new guidance from RCPCH on supporting women to continue breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks".

"If you are a mother, breast milk is perfectly suited for your baby, and it has long-term benefits for your baby, which last until adulthood". It improves nutrition (SDG2), prevents child mortality and decreases the risk of non-communicable diseases (SDG3), and supports cognitive development and education (SDG4). Breastfeeding is only healthy for the baby, but also for the mother.

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