News Brief by Katie Campbell
Everyone wants to minimize infant mortality, but what if the answer could be as easy as long-term breastfeeding? According to a new Series funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Welcome Trust, over 800,000 (or 13%) children under the age of two could be saved worldwide. Long-term (to 12 months) breastfeeding can not only decrease sudden infant mortality rates; but also decrease diarrhea and respiratory infections in infancy, and decrease obesity and diabetes in childhood. Additionally, breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer in mothers. Despite this, breastfeeding rates are particularly low in high-income countries because of the availability and aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes and social stigmas.
The authors of the study include researchers at the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil and the World Health Organization in Switzerland. They argue that political and financial commitment is needed to support breastfeeding at all familial, community, workplace, and governmental levels. This in turn could save healthcare systems over $2 billion in the US and $6-$200 million in other countries. Though breast milk substitutes seem like a viable alternative for many, there’s nothing like the real thing.
The Lancet. "Increasing breastfeeding worldwide could prevent over 800,000 child deaths and 20,000 deaths from breast cancer every year." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 January 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160129090120.htm>.