95 Babies Could Be Saved Every Hour If Mothers Breastfed in 'power hour' After Birth-Save the Children

Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:00pm EST

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.


Save the Children Canada

February 17, 2013 - 09:00:00 PM

95 Babies Could Be Saved Every Hour If Mothers Breastfed in 'power hour' After
Birth-Save the Children

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 17, 2013) - The lives of 95 babies could
be saved every hour - 830,000 a year - if new mothers around the world
breastfed immediately after giving birth, Save the Children said today.

In a new report, Superfood for Babies, the aid agency said that if babies
receive colostrum - the mother's first milk - within an hour of birth, it will
kick start the child's immune system, making them three times more likely to
survive. And, if the mother continues feeding for the next six months, then a
child growing up in the developing world is up to 15 times less likely to die
from killer diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea.

Save the Children said the enormous progress already made in reducing child
mortality could be accelerated if more moms were encouraged to breastfeed. 

Despite the startling statistics, global breastfeeding rates are stalling and
actually declining across East Asia and in some of Africa's most populous
countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria. The prevalence of traditional practices
as well as a severe shortage of health workers and examples of inappropriate
marketing techniques by some baby milk substitute companies, have contributed
to this.

Save the Children CEO Patricia Erb said: "Thirty years ago I worked in Latin
American countries to support breastfeeding moms. I have seen how
breastfeeding early and for a minimum of six months saves lives, particularly
in developing countries."

The aid agency said four key factors are to blame: 

--  A lack of empowerment and education for women which means that some
    harmful traditional practises, which undermine moms breastfeeding their
    babies, are still rife. Instead of live-saving colostrum, in some
    places, newborn babies are fed coffee, shea butter or ash in their first
    hour of life. 
--  The severe shortages of midwives and of health workers in the developing
    world, which means that information on the benefits of breastfeeding is
    inadequate, and there is not enough support to help moms once they give
--  Lack of adequate maternity legislation which makes breastfeeding and
    returning to work a challenge. In reality most mothers living in
    developing countries do not have access to any paid maternity leave. 
--  Marketing practices by some breast milk substitute companies that can
    result in mothers believing that formula is the best way to feed their
    baby even if they are unable to afford it. 

Superfood for Babies also highlights questionable marketing practices adopted
by some breast milk substitute companies active in emerging markets. Asia is a
lucrative new market for the industry which is already worth GBP 16 billion
and set to grow as whole by 31% by 2015. In East Asia and the Pacific, the
number of breastfeeding mothers has fallen from 45% in 2006 to 29% in 2012. 

New research by Save the Children International in Asia found mothers who
cited examples of marketing activity which violate the internationally agreed
code for marketing of breast milk substitutes. 

In Pakistan the aid agency worked with respected pollsters Gallup to survey
new mothers and health workers finding that: 

--  20% of health workers surveyed said they received branded gifts from
    representatives of breast milk substitute companies, including
    prescription pads, calendars, pens and note pads. 
--  11% of mothers surveyed said they had seen or read promotional
    literature about breast milk substitutes whilst at hospital or a clinic.

In a snapshot of the situation in China the aid agency also spoke to mothers
finding that:

--  40% of mothers surveyed reported being given formula samples by some
    breast milk substitute's company representatives or health workers. Of
    this 60% were said to be provided by baby food company representatives,
    and over 30% were said to be given by health workers. 
--  40% of mothers surveyed said they had been contacted directly by
    representatives of breast milk substitutes companies; half of them had
    been contacted in hospitals and over one-third by phone. 

The aid agency said women who give birth with the help of skilled birth
attendants are twice as likely to breastfeed in the first crucial hour and
that plugging a critical gap of 3.5 million health workers would dramatically
increase the number of breastfeeding moms. 

Ms Erb continued: "If every baby was fed during the first hour of life - what
we call the "power hour" - we estimate that up to 830,000 new-born deaths
could be prevented every year; that's 95 babies every hour. And if moms were
helped to breastfeed for a minimum of six months, many more children would be
protected from killer diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea. It is a matter of
life and death." 

The aid agency said that stopping children from dying from preventable disease
and hunger is possible in our lifetime but only if world leaders step up their
fight with greater funding for malnutrition, and breastfeeding in particular. 

Ms Erb added: "We are at a global tipping point. The Canadian government has
been a leader on maternal newborn child health and nutrition and with
continued leadership and global focus we could be the generation to stop
children dying from preventable disease and malnutrition. This year's G8 is a
once in a lifetime opportunity to focus effort on a final push to end hunger."

The aid agency is calling on: 

--  The Canadian government to use the G8 in June and associated hunger
    summit to fund nutrition work with breastfeeding as a core component and
    to encourage other world leaders to follow their example. 
--  Other donor countries to step up their funding for nutrition. 
--  For every developing world country to put in place plans to increase
    breastfeeding rates. 
--  Breast milk substitute companies to increase health warnings that
    formula is inferior to breast milk to cover one-third of its packaging. 
--  All governments to turn the International Code and subsequent
    Resolutions on breast milk substitutes into law and ensure it is
    independently monitored and enforced. 

Notes to editors:

- To calculate that 95 babies could be saved every hour we projected trends in
both Ghana and Nepal, alongside the most recent neonatal data. This is an
estimate but uses the best available evidence and reflects trends highlighted
by WHO. This method assumes that the effects of breastfeeding are constant
across various countries and contexts, and that the effects shown in Ghana and
Nepal are a reasonable approximation to the global average. A full narrative
of the calculation is available upon request. 

- Predicted figures of East Asia growth have been taken from Euromonitor,
Safety First: Global baby food opportunities and challenges to 2015, February

- The International Code of the Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes is here

- UNICEF recently reviewed the declining rate of exclusive breastfeeding in
the region and found that the overall rate, which in 2006 was 45% including
China or 32% excluding China, had fallen to 29% for the whole region in 2012.
This data is not comparable with current exclusive breastfeeding rates as in
2006 China measured exclusive breastfeeding up to four months and allowed for
an infant's additional intake of water. 

- In a rough snapshot of evidence Save the Children International spoke to 291
mothers of infants from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Beijing, Jinan from
Shandong Province, Shanghai, Nanjing from Jiangsu Province, and Shenzhen from
Guangdong Province. 

- In Pakistan Save the Children International spoke to 2400 mothers and 1200
health workers across Pakistan through respected pollsters Gallup. 

To read the report, please click:

Save the Children
Cicely McWilliam
(647) 291-1683

Save the Children
Bryna Jones
(647) 273-7134
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