Breastfeeding Could Save the Lives of 830,000 Babies a Year

This Just In 61

breastfeedingAll the advocacy about breastfeeding exists to show moms that it is best for their baby. Formula gets their fair share of advertisements, why shouldn't breastfeeding be talked about as openly. It is the better choice if you are able to make that choice. And the reality is that worldwide the lives of 830,000 babies could be saved each year if moms breastfed immediately after birth.

That staggering number comes from a report from Save the Children. This is why there has to be advocacy. This is why hospitals need to "lock up" formula. This is why we should at least try to nurse right after birth. Lives depend on it. The littlest lives. The lives of our children.

The "Superfood for Babies" report cites four main reasons that prevent more moms from successfully breastfeeding, including and perhaps most importantly during the "power hour" right after birth. Babies should be born and brought immediately to breast whenever possible. But there are things that prevent that and breastfeeding at all from happening. They are:

1. Cultural and community pressures.

2. The health worker shortage.

3. Lack of maternity legislation.

4. Aggressive marketing of formula.

Maybe American moms are thinking that our babies don't face the same issues as those in a developing country, but the benefits of breastmilk and especially colostrum are unbeatable. They are life-saving. Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children reminds that a baby's immune system is jump-started when able to have the first milk -- colostrum. And being successful at the start of life leads to higher rates of moms exclusively breastfeeding for six months, the AAP's recommended minimum. Breastfeeding for at least six months gives your child a healthier start and is shown to increase the ability to fight off sickness, obesity, and reduces the chances of malnutrition and disease. We want those benefits for our children.

Cultural and community pressures can be addressed for everyone as American women face the fact that most believe breastfeeding in public is an obscene act. That sends the message that it's shameful. Something that should be hidden. That is the opposite of supporting breastfeeding moms when they need it, and that includes health workers -- lactation consultants and hospitals that offer these types of services to help women succeed. To help babies be healthier -- shouldn't that be what a hospital should always be interested in doing?

We all remember the Time magazine article overly concerned about how long moms breastfeed their children when we really should be concentrating on helping moms start to breastfeed their newborns. How many talk shows and mainstream media attention did that cover get? People were freaking out that a mom was still nursing her 4-year-old. We should really focus on what's important here and realize that breast is best. It just is. This doesn't mean moms who formula-feed are doing something wrong -- they aren't. This just means there is a better "product" they should try and if they can, they deserve the support to succeed. This is also why Save the Children created their own magazine cover to really shed light on the breastfeeding issues that are most critical. I dare Time to do a cover story to help moms succeed, to put it out there how breast milk is so beneficial to a baby that it saves 830,000 lives a year.

We also need to fix our maternity leave crisis -- and it is a crisis because the lack of it prevents moms from being able to breastfeed. Working moms don't have a fair shot at breastfeeding.

We also need hospitals on board with this because not everyone can or wants to give birth at home. A hospital birth shouldn't mean c-section and formula. This is our health care system -- they should be working for us, giving us the best, giving our children the best and not furthering a back-alley deal with the formula companies. This is why there was the so-called formula ban, but many failed to see its benefits and instead saw it as an attack on moms who choose to formula feed. This is just not the case. It's about saving lives. Instead of giving formula free advertisement, we should have hospitals that are Baby-Friendly and working with a full-on breastfeeding support system for moms.

We can support moms locally and we can support moms globally. This means we are supporting the lives of children everywhere. This should be a priority for everyone. It's our future.

Save the Children created a petition asking Americans to tell Secretary of State John Kerry to renew our commitment to 1,000 Days Call to Action, the global nutrition initiative that expires in June. Babies deserve to be healthy. Mothers deserve our support. You can sign the petition here

Do you think we need to be doing more to support moms who want to breastfeed? Are you shocked by the number of lives breastfeeding can potentially save?


Image courtesy Save the Children

breastfeeding, natural parenting, newborns


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nonmember avatar AMF

While I am a supporter of breastfeeding, this article serves to further stigmatize mothers who cannot or choose not to BF. I breastfed my forst two children for over a year, each. It was wonderful and I am proud that I did so. Now I have twins and Breastfed them exclusively until 3 months, and now at almost 4 months am supplementing one with formula. The other won't take a bottle, and I am NOT producing enough milk for both. People in support of breastfeeding say that it is impossible not to produce enough milk, and I can say you are wrong. Every time I go online and read an article like this, I feel guilty. So it's time to stop fueling the mommy wars and acknowledge that while breast is best, it is not always an available alternative. Go ahead and educate, but do not throw around careless phrases like "lock up the formula." That's ridiculous and so are people who say such smug things. We all have one goal, which is to raise happy and healthy children. Do your best and don't beat yourself and others up about it!

Angie... AngieHayes

Well, I am all for breastfeeding, I nursed my children for 15 months each. Some people though have a really bad view on it, they think it is gross, or it just doesn't feel right. My cousin just had a baby and she didn't even try to nurse, she said, it just doesn't seem right.... but her mom didn't breastfeed either.

nonmember avatar Heather

This article is a direct attack on Moms who don't breastfeed. Why are all women such BITCHES to each other. It isn't your kid and formula ISN'T illegal so if a mom choose to formula feed, shut the hell up and let her raise her children her way.

Nycti... Nyctimene

I don't know what the original studies or articles are about but I doubt it was so much about first world women breastfeeding. I know there's been studies about the importance of breastfeeding in third world countries where water (to mix formula) is completely contaminated with disease and waste, and many women use formula or powdered milk and I think that is where the study is trying to emphasize it...or should be. 

Caera Caera

Blah, blah, blah. Breast milk is better, but formula is fine. Plenty of babies grow up on formula and would never know it if their mothers didn't tell them. So much more influences a child's life between birth and five years old than whether s/he was breastfed or not.

Why aren't there more CM articles about not being a lazy ass and actually READING to your child and teaching him or her to read, practicing their numbers, and teaching them manners before they get to preschool?

That's much more important than what they eat for the first six months of life.

Zenia6 Zenia6

I don't think this article is an attack on anyone. It should not offend or upset Moms who decided to formula feed to read that breastmilk is really good for babies. Its just a fact. Breastmilk is BEST. The point of the article is that we should encourage woman to breastfeed and help woman succeed and make breastfeeding the norm. If you give birth in a hospital you should not have to be on guard against nurses offering formula.

LoriA... LoriAnn87

I'm all for Breastfeeding but many women can't or choose not too. My first son was formula feed and so is my second but I did want to Breastfeed but I wasn't able too because I didn't proucded enough milk. In the end it's up to the women to choose what is best for her child no one else can make that decison.

PonyC... PonyChaser

I still don't understand why mothers feel they "have to be on guard against nurses offering formula" or why formula should be "locked up" in hospitals, like it's some sort of dangerous opiate. There is a simple word in the English Language, one that conveys exactly what you want at that moment in time. That word is "NO".

"NO, I do not want formula. Thank you. I will breastfeed my child." Period. And if those evil, dastardly nurses still leave those nasty coupons with you? Take them to the local food bank, church, or even the grocery store. I'm sure someone else will be happy to have them.

But God forbid they're available to those moms who need or want them, because some other mom might be offended.

youth... youthfulsoul

Ditto most of the comments above. I had a preemie who didn't know how to breast feed. I pumped for a month at which time he finally figured out how to latch on but by then my milk was drying up and I had to supplement. By 4 months he was completely on formula because my body simply would not produce breast milk anymore.....and this after having previously breast fed my other 3 children.

Zenia6 Zenia6

Pony- the problem with being on guard is that it makes it more difficult to establish a breastfeeding relationship if a bottle is offered. A new (or young) mother may succumb to pressure from nurses or the father to give a bottle because they are tired and overwhelmed. Many mothers have no trouble saying NO, but others give in and later regret the decision. It is not about being "offended" its about not being supported. Before formula is offered a lactation consultant should be sent in as standard procedure, unless the mom falls into the "I know i will formula feed" camp. JMHO

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