UK & World News
Breastfeeding Could Save 95 Babies Every Hour
The lives of 95 babies could be saved every hour if mothers started breastfeeding their newborns in the hour after their birth, a charity has said.
Receiving a mother's first milk within an hour will kickstart the child's immune system, making a newborn three times more likely to survive, according to a report by Save the Children.
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 such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, the report said.
According to the charity, there has been enormous progress in reducing child mortality, but more could be done if mothers were encouraged to breastfeed.
"Despite the benefits of breastfeeding being widely known in the developed world, and it being a free, natural way to protect a newborn baby, too little attention is being paid to help mums breastfeed in poorer countries," said Justin Forsyth, Save the Children's chief executive.
"If every baby was fed during the first hour of life - what we call the 'power hour' - we estimate that up to 830,000 newborn deaths could be prevented every year - that's 95 babies every hour."
Breastfeeding rates are declining across East Asia and in some of Africa's most populous countries such as Ethiopia and Nigeria, according to the report, called Superfood For Babies.
The charity cites as factors a lack of empowerment and education for women, severe shortages of midwives and health workers in the developing world, and lack of adequate maternity legislation.
It also cites "inappropriate" marketing techniques by some baby milk substitute companies leading mothers to believe formula is the best way to feed their babies.
Save the Children's new ambassador, actress Isla Fisher, recently visited Brazil as part of the organisation's campaign.
She found that Brazil was already implementing a plan to encourage mothers to start breast feeding early.
Isla said: "It's shocking that around the world nearly a quarter of babies who die in the first month of their lives could have been saved if they had been breast fed in the first few hours of their life.
"Brazil is an amazing example of how to turn it around. I just wish other countries could follow their example."
Save The Children is calling on the UK Government to use its G8 presidency to fund nutrition work with breastfeeding and on other donor countries to step up their funding.
"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," said Mr Forsyth.