Breastfeeding-Impact on child survival and global situation

Update: 10/25/2012 - View: 11268

Optimal breastfeeding of infants under two years of age has the greatest potential impact on child survival of all preventive interventions, with the potential to prevent 1.4 million deaths in children under five in the developing world (Lancet 2008).  The results of a study conducted in Ghana show that breastfeeding babies within the first hour of birth can prevent 22 per cent of neonatal deaths.

Breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children.  Breastfeeding drastically reduces deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea, two major child killers, as well as from other infectious diseases (WHO-Lancet 2000). The potential impact of optimal breastfeeding practices is especially important in developing country situations with a high burden of disease and low access to clean water and sanitation. But non-breastfed children in industrialized countries are also at greater risk of dying - a recent study of post-neonatal mortality in the United States found a 25% increase in mortality among non-breastfed infants. In the UK Millennium Cohort Survey, six months of exclusive breast feeding was associated with a 53% decrease in hospital admissions for diarrhoea and a 27% decrease in respiratory tract infections.

While breastfeeding rates are no longer declining at the global level, with many countries experiencing significant increases in the last decade, only 38 per cent of children less than six months of age in the developing world are exclusively breastfed and just 39 per cent of 20-23 month olds benefit from the practice of continued breastfeeding.