More than 800,000 children a year can be saved with improved breastfeeding

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Photo: UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

More than 820,000 children globally, the vast majority of them infants under 6 months, could be saved with improved breastfeeding practices.

That's the finding of a series of papers released by The Lancet magazine, which was compiled with the help of experts from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Veronica Reeves has the story.

The Lancet series indicates that nearly half of all instances of diarrhoea and a third of respiratory infections, the two leading causes of death among children under the age of five, could be prevented through increased breastfeeding.

The lifesaving benefits extend to children in developed and developing countries alike, according to the study. Breastfeeding lowers child mortality in high income countries and is associated with a 36 per cent reduction in sudden infant deaths.

Experts say a child who breastfeeds for longer also has a reduced risk of becoming overweight or obese later in life.

The Lancet series also shows that the practice has important health benefits for mothers; each year a woman breastfeeds her risk of developing invasive breast cancer is reduced by 6 per cent.

UNICEF calls breastfeeding "the most natural, cost effective, environmentally sound and readily available way we know" to give children the healthiest start in life.

Veronica Reeves, United Nations.

Duration: 59″

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