Breastfeeding Reduces Child Mortality Rate by 85%

The headline above is from an August 10, 2014, article in The Rakyat Post, a publication from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The statistics may be unique to Kuala Lumpur, but multiple studies from all over the world have confirmed the large health benefit to an infant from breastfeeding for both increased immunity and proper infant nutrition.

Dr Farah Inaz Syed Abdullah of the Hospital Kuala Lumpur emphasized the importance of breastfeeding for nutritional purposes saying, “If children across the world were breastfed during the golden hour — that is the first hour after birth — it is estimated that one million child deaths could be avoided. This is because during this first feeding, the child will be fed colostrum, the first milk that contains the right amounts of nutrients, in the right proportions for the newborn. What makes it unique is that the amount of nutrients in breast milk changes as the baby grows.”

Adding support for breastfeeding in reducing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Dr Maiza Tusimin, Universiti Putra Malaysia senior medical lecturer and specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, added, “SIDS often happens to babies who were fed with infant formula through a bottle. This risk can be reduced as breast milk is given in an exclusive manner and full of attention. This is besides the fact that it also contains lipase, an enzyme that aids in the digestion of fats naturally.”

In the United States, several publications, including an article on the KMA News website from Iowa, announced that August is National Breastfeeding Month. In this article, Marian Tompson, one of the founders of the La Leche League, a consumer breastfeeding advocacy group, touted the benefits that mothers who breastfeed get from it by reducing the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and some forms of cancer.

Tompson explained, “There have been thousands of studies during the past 50 years that confirm babies are healthier when they’re breastfed. And it makes sense because they’re getting the food that was meant for their growth and development.”

An August 1, 2014, statement on the United Nations News Centre website also points out the importance of breastfeeding immediately after birth. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), noted in a letter, “Immediate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth could prevent one in five unnecessary deaths. That’s more than 500,000 children every year, more than 1,500 children every day.”

Lake also added, “Breastfeeding is the foundation of good nutrition, reducing the risk of malnourishment in early childhood and the risk of obesity later in life. By supporting nutrition and strengthening the bond between mother and child, breastfeeding also supports healthy brain development.”

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