How can breastfeeding prevent over 800,000 deaths every year?

How can breastfeeding prevent over 800,000 deaths every year?

Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for infants, hands down. It is the perfect blend of vitamins, proteins, and healthy fats, all designed to help your baby grow. Research has shown that breastfeeding can help develop the immune systems of infants as well.

Many major medical institutes, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, highly recommend breastfeeding.

Could breastfeeding do more than just help provide essential nutrients to infants. How can breastfeeding prevent over 800,000 deaths every year? Scientists aimed to find out.

New estimates for the two part research series from The Lancet that increasing breastfeeding worldwide could save over 800,000 children’s lives every year, and may prevent 20,000 deaths from breast cancer every year as well.

There is a widespread misconception that the benefits of breastfeeding only relate to poor countries. Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Series author Professor Cesar Victora from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil. “Our work for this Series clearly shows that breastfeeding saves lives and money in all countries, rich and poor alike. Therefore, the importance of tackling the issue globally is greater than ever.”

As stated in the study abstract:

The importance of breastfeeding in low-income and middle-income countries is well recognised, but less consensus exists about its importance in high-income countries. In low-income and middle-income countries, only 37% of children younger than 6 months of age are exclusively breastfed. With few exceptions, breastfeeding duration is shorter in high-income countries than in those that are resource-poor. Our meta-analyses indicate protection against child infections and malocclusion, increases in intelligence, and probable reductions in overweight and diabetes. We did not find associations with allergic disorders such as asthma or with blood pressure or cholesterol, and we noted an increase in tooth decay with longer periods of breastfeeding. For nursing women, breastfeeding gave protection against breast cancer and it improved birth spacing, and it might also protect against ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes. The scaling up of breastfeeding to a near universal level could prevent 823 000 annual deaths in children younger than 5 years and 20 000 annual deaths from breast cancer. Recent epidemiological and biological findings from during the past decade expand on the known benefits of breastfeeding for women and children, whether they are rich or poor.

The first part of the series was published the The Lancet.

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1. “Increasing Breastfeeding Worldwide Could Prevent over 800000 Child Deaths and 20000 Deaths from Breast Cancer Every Year.” EurekAlert! The Lancet, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.
2. “Breastfeeding in the 21st Century: Epidemiology, Mechanisms, and Lifelong Effect.” The Lancet. The Lancet, n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2016.
3. “Breastfeeding Benefits for Mom and Baby.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.

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