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Save the Children has just released a new report, Superfood for Babies (pdf), which states that many manufacturers of formula are using marketing practices that target both mothers and health care professionals, by showering them with free gifts and formula samples and promoting misleading nutritional claims about formula. Save the Children notes that this is in direct violation of international codes of practice related to the marketing of breast milk substitutes, which was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 in response to a decline in breastfeeding. In their in-depth report, Save the Children notes that many of the shady practices used by formula companies have zero scientific basis — and worse, these marketing practices present a significant barrier when it comes to new mothers breastfeeding.
Not all the news in the report is bad. For example, Save the Children states that breastfeeding encouragement overall has made a dramatic difference in the world during the last decade, helping to reduce the number of children dying from preventable disease from 12 million to 6.9 million. Still, things could be a lot better. As it stands, malnutrition is still the underlying cause of a third of all child deaths. Since breastfeeding is one of the best ways to defeat malnutrition, formula companies are pushing more than synthetic milk, they may be pushing death in a can. Keep reading to learn more about the new Superfood for Babies report.
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The Power of the First Hour
Save the Children’s report focuses on critical messages including, “The power of the first hour,” a statement based on Save the Children’s estimate that if all babies were breastfed within the first hour of life, 830,000 children’s lives would be saved every year. More facts from the new report are below:
- 22% of newborn deaths could be prevented if breastfeeding started within the first hour after birth (as researched in rural Ghana).
- 16% of newborn deaths could be prevented if breastfeeding started within the first 24 hours after birth (as researched in rural Ghana).
- An infant given breast milk within an hour of birth is up to three times more likely to survive than one breastfed a day later (as researched in Nepal).
- At six months, infants who are not breastfed are 15% more likely to die from pneumonia and 11% more likely to die of diarrhea than those who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. (According to UNICEF)
- Infants who are not breastfed at all may have as much as 14 times greater risk of death than those who were exclusively breastfed, while those who were partially breastfed may have 4 times greater risk of death (as researched in Brazil).
Stacks of research about the amazing benefits of breastfeeding have been accumulating for years, and the formula companies know it. In spite of this, formula companies keep pushing their products and it’s not surprising that
92 million children under six months of age are either artificially fed (with formula) or fed a mixture of breast milk and other foods. That’s two out of three babies worldwide who are not receiving the benefits of breast milk.
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