More than 800,000 children could be prevented from dying worldwide if more women breastfed, a new study has suggested.
The method could also prevent an extra 22,000 deaths from breast cancer a year, according to a report published in 'The Lancet' medical journal.
However, the study highlighted that many women do not breastfeed due to a combination of government policies, weak community support and the tactics of the formula milk industry.
Researchers made their findings by analysing 28 previous studies which showed that breastfeeding has a positive effect on both a mother and her child’s life.
Breastfeeding was linked to increased intelligence, and protection against obesity and diabetes later in life.
But researchers warned that despite the positive effects, breastfeeding rates are low – particularly in high-income countries.
The study showed that while 80 per cent of newborns are breastfed worldwide, the figure drops to 37 per cent in low and middle-income nations.
The situation is worse in high-income nations. Fewer than 1 per cent of babies were breastfed up to their first birthday in the UK, while the figure in Ireland was 2 per cent. In Denmark, only 3 per cent of women did so.
Dr Nigel Rollins of the World Health Organisation (WHO), who co-authored the research, stressed that the responsibility to breastfeed should not lie solely with the woman.
“Her ability to breastfeed is very much shaped by the support and the environment in which she lives. There is a broader responsibility of governments and society to support women through policies and programmes in the community," The Guardian.
Breastfeeding in public controversies
Breastfeeding in public controversies
A woman has sparked a heated debate among parents after she revealed that she breastfeeds both her and her friend's son. Jessica Colletti, from Pennsylvania, said nursing Charlie Interrante's son “seemed like the natural thing to do” because she was already breastfeeding her son. Colletti told the Mama Bean parenting blog that she asked permission to nurse Interrante’s son when she began looking after him, after they met at a photoshoot for new mothers. Interrante agreed as her son had not taken to formula milk
New Hampshire State Rep. Josh Moore said on Facebook that men should be allowed to grab the nipples of breastfeeding mothers if the law banning women exposing their breasts did not pass
When Gemma Colley's photo of her son with fake tan on his fake after she breastfeed him went viral, she also saw that no parent is alone when they make a silly mistake. Over 100,000 people liked and 40,000 people shared Ms Colley’s photo of her son’s sleepy face with fake tan encircling his mouth and nose, after she posted it to the Unmumsy Mum Facebook page
A candid image of a mother breastfeeding her young child while using the toilet has divided parents online, as some argue it’s an honest depiction of parenthood, while others have labelled it “disgusting”
The exclusive Claridge’s hotel has been widely criticised for asking a woman to cover herself with a “ridiculous shroud” while breastfeeding her three-month-old daughter. Lousie Burns said she burst into tears when staff members at the five-star venue asked her to cover herself and her baby with an oversized napkin in order to avoid “causing offence” to other guests
An Australian café has been praised for sticking up for a breastfeeding mother after a customer told her to cover up. Jessica-Anne Allen, owner of Cheese and Biscuits Café in Queensland, Australia, has described how she was approached by a male customer in the café to complain that he was upset by a woman in the coffee shop breastfeeding her child nearby. The customer asked the café owner, 29, to tell the mother to cover up. When Mrs Allen refused to do so, he took matters into his own hands and challenged the woman himself. Staff at the café then asked the man to leave
A woman who claimed a Primark security guard had forcibly removed her child while she was breastfeeding has admitted to perverting the course of justice. Caroline Starmer sparked a series of headlines after claiming on Facebook that a store guard had taken her nine-month-old daughter Paige away from her. The mother from Leicester then repeated her claims in a number of interviews, before Primark denied the incident and handed CCTV over to the police to show there was no evidence to support the allegations. Appearing in Leicester Crown Court, she admitted the charge of perverting the course of justice by not telling the truth
Pope Francis has become an unlikely advocate for public breastfeeding, by encouraging mothers to feed their babies in the Sistine Chapel. During a ceremony in Vatican City on Sunday, the Pope baptised 32 babies and told their mothers: “If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice, because they are the most important people here”
Facebook has changed its community guidelines to allow users to post photos of breastfeeding. The change comes as the wide-ranging #FreeTheNipple online campaign has built pace in its attack against guidelines used by social media websites to regulate nudity – from photos of breastfeeding to topless photos post by singer Rihanna’s on her now defunct Instagram account. Facebook’s Community Standards, which outline what users are allowed to post, never included a outright ban on photos of breastfeeding
The manager of a public swimming pool at the Lux Park centre in Liskeardhas been forced to apologise after he told a mother to stop breastfeeding her son by the waterside. 23-year-old Rebecaa Hough of Torpoint, Cornwall, was feeding 10-month-old Max a few steps from the main pool, when the manager told her to carry on in the changing rooms in case the infant was sick into the water. She was also told that she should not to return for half an hour to ensure the milk was fully digested
A Conservative MP has claimed allowing women to breastfeed in the House of Commons chamber would expose politicians to “tabloid ridicule”. Sir Simon Burns, a former transport minister, spoke on what he called a “controversial subject” in a debate in making Westminster more family-friendly
Categorising the results according to a nation’s economic status, researchers found that breastfeeding in high-income countries slashed the risk of sudden infant death by more than a third.
Meanwhile, it halved all infant cases of diarrhoea and a third of lung infections in low and middle-income nations.
Lead researcher Professor Cesar Victora, from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, said that the evidence “leaves no doubt that the decision to breastfeed has major long-term negative effects on the health, nutrition and development of children and on women's health."
He added: ”There is a widespread misconception that breast milk can be replaced with artificial products without detrimental consequences.”
Janet Fyle, from the Royal College of Midwives, said the report "underpins and reinforces why breastfeeding is the most appropriate method of providing nutrition for a baby."
However, women who cannot breastfeed or choose not to must not be made to feel guilty, the National Childbirth Trust told The Independent and stressed that mothers need better support.
Responding to the study, senior policy adviser, NCT, Rosemary Dodds said: "Parents need support whatever their feeding decisions and mothers should not be judged or made to feel guilty however they decide to feed their baby.
"Some women don’t find breastfeeding easy, a small minority can’t and others don’t want to breastfeed their baby which is entirely up to them.
"However we know that in the UK, 80 per cent of mums who stopped breastfeeding in the first few weeks would have liked to continue, but needed more support.
"If mums are given good information and practical help to build confidence during pregnancy and they have the support they need around them in the early days and weeks, then many more will go on to breastfeed for as long as they want."