Breastfeeding saves lives: UNICEF

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A mother breastfeeding her child.[Photo: UNICEF/ Giacomo Pirozzi]

Breastfeeding is the cheapest and most effective life-saver in history, according to UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund.

This fact is being highlighted during World Breastfeeding Week, from the 1st to the 7th of August.

UNICEF says breastfeeding is the most effective and inexpensive way to save a child's life. UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta calls it a baby's "first immunization''

Children who are exclusively breastfed are 14 times more likely to survive the first six months of life than non-breastfed children. Starting breastfeeding in the first day after birth can reduce the risk of new-born death by up to 45 per cent.

Breastfeeding also supports a child's ability to learn and helps prevent obesity and chronic diseases later in life.

But while the benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented worldwide, only 39 percent of children under six months of age were exclusively breastfed in 2012.

WHO's Dr. Maria del Carmen Casanovas says it has to do with the validity of information new mothers are receiving.

“Many times its not information that is correct. For instance, the mothers may feel that it is the same thing to give infant formula [as it is] to breastfeed. Or they may even find that a formula is better than the breastmilk. So that is why it is important to protect the mother [from] that influence.”

UNICEF says it is essential to create an enabling environment for breastfeeding to become the norm.

Gerry Adams, United Nations.

Duration: 1’39″

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