Marketers rolling back gains in baby breastfeeding

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Three in five babies not breastfed within first hour of birth, report says

Breastfeeding can reduce Kenya's under-five mortality rate, which stands at 37.1 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2017 estimates.

PAHO recommended breastfeeding of newborns within the first 60 minutes of life; breastfeeding of babies exclusively until the age of six months, and breastfeeding as a supplement until the age of two years.

Infant food manufacturers are to blame for low breastfeeding rates, says a Save the Children report. This year's theme, "Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life", highlights breastfeeding's role in reducing poverty and preventing hunger and malnutrition.

"Latin America and the Caribbean is among the regions with the highest global averages for breastfeeding, yet much remains to be done if we are to achieve the goal of exclusively breastfeeding 50 per cent of all babies during the first six months of life", said Ruben Grajeda, PAHO's Regional Advisor on Nutrition. "Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulate the mother's production of breastmilk, including colostrum, also called the baby's 'first vaccine, ' which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies".

"Capture the Moment", which analyses data from 76 countries, finds that despite the importance of early initiation of breastfeeding, too many newborns are left waiting too long for different reasons.

Breastfeeding also promotes overall health, growth and development of infants and reduces the risk of developing asthma, obesity, diabetes and other diseases in childhood and adulthood.

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It says that only 0.6 per cent births occur at baby friendly hospitals in Bangladesh. And women who are HIV-positive and on anti-retrovirals can safely breastfeed their babies without transmitting the virus, research has found. Due to this, the baby finds it hard to attach to the breast.

Earlier studies cited in the report showed that delaying breastfeeding between two and 23 hours increases an infant's risk of dying by 33 percent. Cultural practices that involve giving the baby honey or other foods right after birth can also be an important reason for delay in breast feeding say the team.

While snuggled close to the breast, your baby can quickly recognise your heartbeat.

In July, the United States drew criticism for allegedly putting pressure on other members of the World Health Assembly, the WHO's decision-making body, to withdraw their support from a WHO resolution promoting breastfeeding.

In the report, UNICEF and World Health Organization urge governments to adopt strong legal measures to restrict the marketing of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes. "The appropriate care of both new born and mother in the moments after birth is critical to ensuring that breastfeeding not only begins but continues successfully".

"When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything", said Henrietta H. Fore, executive director for the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF.

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