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Breastfeeding could avert 20 000 deaths every year

Publishing Date : 12 August, 2019


As the world celebrates world breastfeeding week this week to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world, World Health Organization says breastfeeding promotes better health for mothers and children alike.

Increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels could save more than 800 000 lives every year, the majority being children under 6 months. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of mothers developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is estimated that increased breastfeeding could avert 20 000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth until a baby is 6 months old. Nutritious complementary foods should then be added while continuing to breastfeeding for up to 2 years of beyond.

This year, WHO is working with UNICEF and partners to promote the importance of family-friendly policies to enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children in early life, when it matters the most. This includes enacting paid maternity leave for a minimum of 18 weeks, and paternity leave to encourage shared responsibility of caring for their children on equal basis. Mothers also need access to a parent friendly workplace to protect and support their ability to continue breastfeeding upon return to work by having access to breastfeeding breaks; a safe, private, and hygienic space for expressing and storing breastmilk; and affordable childcare. The evidence is clear that during early childhood, the optimal nutrition provided by breastfeeding, along with nurturing care and stimulation, can strengthen children’s brain development with impacts that endure over a lifetime.

Returning to work too soon is a barrier to the early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and continued breastfeeding until age 2 or longer- practices that can boost children’s immune systems, shield them from disease, and provide protection from non-communicable diseases later in life. Breastfeeding also protects maternal health- women who breastfed reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancers. In addition to their impact on children, family-friendly policies support women’s participation in the workforce, improve their physical and mental health, and enhance family well-being. They also advace business objectives and strengthen the economy. Such policies have been shown increase employee retention, improve job satisfaction, and result in fewer absences. In short, family-friendly policies are good for families, babies and business.



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