According to a new report published by Save the Children, if all mothers chose to breastfeed immediately after birth, more than 800,000 infant lives could be saved every year. The report titled “Superfood for Babies” outlines the four most common barriers women face when it comes to breastfeeding. With support, the organization hopes to improve the number of women who choose to breastfeed.

According to Save the Children, the four barriers new mothers face when it comes to breastfeeding are:

  • Cultural/community pressures
  • Health worker shortages
  • Lack of maternity legislation
  • Highly marketed breast milk substitutes

Of particular concern for report authors was the “power hour.” The first hour after birth it is important for infants to be fed the immunity-rich colostrum produced for only a few days after birth. Often referred to as liquid gold, colostrum supports the infant’s immune system essentially jumpstarting immunity. Mothers who breastfeed early are more likely to continue breastfeeding for at least six months and six months is all it takes to start saving lives. Breastfeeding provides crucial calories, vitamins and nutrients lacking in some underdeveloped nations and may reduce the risk of malnutrition and disease.

Breastfeeding rates across the world hover around 40%. Save the Children outlines several reasons why this number just will not budge. At the top of the list is lack of support from family, health works and the government. Family pressures leave some mothers worried they will not be able to find time for other children or a spouse/partner, so they choose not to breastfeed. Health care providers are either lacking education or choose to push infant formula on new mothers based on direct marketing campaigns and lack of maternity leave or set workplace regulations regarding breastfeeding mothers are all in play.

The heart of the report was the number of lives breastfeeding could save each year. Save the Children claims:

  • About 20% of infant deaths could be prevented if mothers were allowed and encouraged to breastfeed within the first hour of birth.
  • Up to 16% of infant deaths could be stopped if breastfeeding was started within 24 hours of birth.

Bottle fed babies are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia. Breastfeeding is best and, according to Save the Children, it is also a lifesaver that could reduce the number of infant deaths every year dramatically.

Source: Save the Children. February 17, 2013.