Hundreds of thousands of babies could be saved each year if they received enough breast milk, UNICEF says. The world's richest countries have the lowest breastfeeding rates despite the benefits for baby and mother.
More than 800,000 child deaths a year could be prevented by breastfeeding, according to a new report released Thursday by UN child protection unit UNICEF.
Stressing the benefits of nursing for both maternal and infant health, the report says babies are still more likely to be breastfed in developing countries than in the world's richest nations.
What the report says:
'The best gift'
"Breastfeeding is the best gift a mother, rich or poor, can give her child, as well as herself," Shahida Azfar, UNICEF's deputy executive director, says.
"Breastfeeding boosts babies' immune systems, giving them a healthy start in life," UNICEF Executive Director Henerietta H. Fore tweeted.
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UNICEF found the reasons for not breastfeeding, or not nursing for long, vary, but it stresses that granting paid parental leave, the right to breastfeed in the workplace and restrictions on promoting infant formula as "critical."
It also urges hospitals to give mothers guidance on nursing and encourage women to start feeding within an hour of giving birth.
UNICEF stresses community support as another crucial factor, with "positive social norms" encouraging nursing in public spaces as well as support from fathers and other family members.
UNICEF recommends higher "funding and awareness to raise breastfeeding rates from birth through the age of two."