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Breastfeeding 'power hour' superfood

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
child breastfeeding

18th February 2013 - A charity is stressing the importance of breastfeeding in the first hour after a baby is born.

Save the Children says the lives of 830,000 babies worldwide could be saved every hour if mothers started breastfeeding newborns in what it calls the 'power hour' after their birth.

The mother’s first milk, called colostrum, helps to kick start the child's immune system.

As well as health benefits, breastfeeding helps to promote a strong bond between mum and baby.

The charity's new report called Superfood for Babies, looks at breastfeeding globally, but has important messages for the UK. The report also contains some criticism of infant formula and follow-on formula marketing.

Breastfeeding in the UK

In the UK, 81% of mothers start breastfeeding within the first 24 hours after their baby is born.

That's improved from 62% in 1990.

Mums in the UK are encouraged to breastfeed babies exclusively for their first six months. However, figures from 2010 found only 5% of babies in the UK were still breastfed at five months.

Breastfeeding in the developing world

Save the Children is campaigning for more awareness of breastfeeding globally, especially in the developing world. It says the first milk makes babies three times more likely to survive. Continuing breastfeeding for six months reduces the risk of death from diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea by 15 times.

Worldwide, breastfeeding rates have stalled in some places and are declining across East Asia and in some African countries, including Ethiopia and Nigeria.

Formula industry criticised

Promoting formula milk over breastfeeding is banned under international codes. However, research for Save the Children found breaches of the code in some parts of the world, including Pakistan and China.

Similar to warnings on cigarette packets, the charity wants breast milk substitute companies to cover a third of packaging with messages making it clear that formula is inferior to breast milk.

Reaction

The breastfeeding group La Leche League GB has welcomed the findings online, saying it hopes the report: "will draw attention to the fact that breastfeeding plays an enormous role in the health and well being of mothers and babies."

A Department of Health spokesperson says in a statement: "Breastfeeding rates in England have steadily increased over the years and we're doing everything we can to support women who choose to breastfeed.

"We have pledged to have an extra 4,200 health visitors by 2015. Health visitors support new mums and help them get through any problems they are having with breastfeeding."

Reviewed on February 18, 2013

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