TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 02/17/13 -- The lives of 95 babies could be saved every hour - 830,000 a year - if new mothers around the world breastfed immediately after giving birth, Save the Children said today.
In a new report, Superfood for Babies, the aid agency said that if babies receive colostrum - the mother's first milk - within an hour of birth, it will kick start the child's immune system, making them three times more likely to survive. And, 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 like pneumonia and diarrhea.
Save the Children said the enormous progress already made in reducing child mortality could be accelerated if more moms were encouraged to breastfeed.
Despite the startling statistics, global breastfeeding rates are stalling and actually declining across East Asia and in some of Africa's most populous countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria. The prevalence of traditional practices as well as a severe shortage of health workers and examples of inappropriate marketing techniques by some baby milk substitute companies, have contributed to this.
Save the Children CEO Patricia Erb said: "Thirty years ago I worked in Latin American countries to support breastfeeding moms. I have seen how breastfeeding early and for a minimum of six months saves lives, particularly in developing countries."
The aid agency said four key factors are to blame:
-- A lack of empowerment and education for women which means that some harmful traditional practises, which undermine moms breastfeeding their babies, are still rife. Instead of live-saving colostrum, in some places, newborn babies are fed coffee, shea butter or ash in their first hour of life.-- The severe shortages of midwives and of health workers in the developing world, which means that information on the benefits of breastfeeding is inadequate, and there is not enough support to help moms once they give birth.-- Lack of adequate maternity legislation which makes breastfeeding and returning to work a challenge. In reality most mothers living in developing countries do not have access to any paid maternity leave.-- Marketing practices by some breast milk substitute companies that can result in mothers believing that formula is the best way to feed their baby even if they are unable to afford it.
Superfood for Babies also highlights questionable marketing practices adopted by some breast milk substitute companies active in emerging markets. Asia is a lucrative new market for the industry which is already worth GBP 16 billion and set to grow as whole by 31% by 2015. In East Asia and the Pacific, the number of breastfeeding mothers has fallen from 45% in 2006 to 29% in 2012.
New research by Save the Children International in Asia found mothers who cited examples of marketing activity which violate the internationally agreed code for marketing of breast milk substitutes.
In Pakistan the aid agency worked with respected pollsters Gallup to survey new mothers and health workers finding that:
-- 20% of health workers surveyed said they received branded gifts from representatives of breast milk substitute companies, including prescription pads, calendars, pens and note pads.-- 11% of mothers surveyed said they had seen or read promotional literature about breast milk substitutes whilst at hospital or a clinic.