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WHO Recommends Breastfeeding To Save Millions Of Lives

July 31, 2009

To mark the arrival of World Breastfeeding Week, the World Health Organization announced that breastfeeding could save 1.3 million children’s lives each year.

WHO recommends that mothers begin breastfeeding their children within one hour of being born, and that those children remain on an exclusive breastfed diet for six months, after which, it recommends that mothers begin to add “safe and properly fed complementary foods” while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years of age.

However, less than 40 percent of new mothers breastfeed their children for the first six months after birth, said WHO, adding that many mothers fail to get proper training.

If the global rate of breastfeeding was increased to 90 percent, WHO estimates that the lives of 13 percent of 10 million children under the age of 5 could be saved.

“When it comes to doing it practically, they don’t have the practical support,” WHO expert Constanza Vallenas told reporters on Friday.

Vallenas said the problem spans both rich and underdeveloped nations.

“During emergencies, unsolicited or uncontrolled donations of breast milk substitutes may undermine breastfeeding and should be avoided,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “The focus should be on active protection and support of breastfeeding.”

Additionally, pregnant mothers should get top priority for receiving the H1N1 virus vaccine, which is to be made available to the public in October.

“Pregnant women, when they get flu, are at risk and they should see a doctor,” said WHO spokeswoman Aphaluck Bhatiasevi.

“It adds to the risk and it is really essential for pregnant women to seek medication.”

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