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Breastfeeding can Help Thousands of Babies Survive: Report

Update Date: Feb 18, 2013 08:29 AM EST

Hundreds of thousands of children the world over can be saved if mothers begin breast-feeding early, says a new report from Save the Children.

The agency says that feeding babies the first milk, or the colostrum, can kick-start the baby's immune system and prevent the child from falling ill. The agency estimates that some 830,000 babies a year could be saved if the mothers breast-feed them early.

"Last year, we saw a lot of handwringing in this country over how long is too long for moms to breastfeed. But the real scandal is that many moms around the world don't get the support they need to start breastfeeding early - or even at all. It's a choice all moms should have, and in the developing world it can literally be a matter of life and death for their babies," said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children.

A recent report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that in the U.S., the rates of breast-feeding have increased over the years. However, African-American women are still far less likely to breast-feed babies than Hispanic or white women.

Although for American babies, breast-feeding may not be a factor of life and death when compared to babies being born in the developing countries, Save the Children says that breast-feeding lowers the baby's chances of obesity later in life. Also, American moms have "the industrialized world's lowest level of protection when it comes to maternity leave policy."

A related study published in 2006 says that avoiding pacifiers for 10 weeks, improved maternity leave, and flexible working conditions can help women exclusively breast-feed their infants.

"Women everywhere should have all the support and information they need to make the best choices for themselves and for the health and survival of their children. At the same time, all of us can do something to help save hundreds of thousands of babies from needless death. It's a matter of raising our voices for these children," Miles said in a news release

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