Improved breastfeeding practices have the potential to save the lives of 823,000 children, like Sakariye

No one understands how breastfeeding can increase a child’s chance of survival the way a mother of a malnourished child does.

Did you know that undernutrition is estimated to be associated with 2.7 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths.1 However, research estimates that breastfeeding saves the lives of over 820,000 children under 5 years old each year.

In fact, around one in eight of the young lives lost each year could be saved through breastfeeding,3 making it the most effective of all ways to prevent the diseases and malnutrition that can cause child deaths.4 Here’s why.

Breast Milk Is a Superfood
In the first hours and days of her baby’s life the mother produces milk called colostrum, the most potent natural immune system booster known to science.5 A baby who is breastfed colostrum receives significant protection against pneumonia and diarrhea, which are two major causes of deaths of children in poor countries. A child who is not breastfed is 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhea. 2

If we can ensure that every infant is given breast milk immediately after birth, is fed only breast milk for the first six months and continues being breastfed through two years of age and beyond, we can greatly increase the chance that they will survive and go on to fulfill their potential.

Mothers Face Barriers to Breastfeeding
Additionally, because of the chronic shortage of health workers, many women in developing countries give birth at home without skilled help, or in a health facility where the health workers are over-stretched and under-trained. One third of babies are born without a skilled birth attendant present. As a result the opportunity for new mothers to be supported to breastfeed in the first few hours is lost.7

The Importance of Breastfeeding Support
A mother’s access to skilled breastfeeding support can have direct impacts on her ability and confidence to breastfeed.  Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone, particularly in emergencies.  In these times of difficulty, mothers need access to support.  Skilled support as well as basic interventions that support mothers and their youngest children have a direct impact on her child’s survival. Here is the story of one such mother.

Amran* holds her six month-old son Sakariye*, the youngest of her 3 children.

Sakariye*’s mum, Amran*, remembers the first time her son was seriously ill. “He was 15 days old. First, he had problems breathing, then he got measles,” she explained. Amran* did her best to care for Sakariye*. She tried to get him medicine. She tried to breastfeed him, but he continued to struggle.

A baby’s health is closely linked to its mother’s and so it was for Sakariye* and Amran*. When drought caused food shortages in Somalia where the family lives, Amran* did what any parent would do. She put her young children first.

“I wasn’t able to breastfeed Sakariye* because I was sick and malnourished,” says Amran*. She faced real challenges in feeding her child and lost her confidence in being able to feed Sakariye*.  Amran* didn’t have access to skilled breastfeeding support that could have immediately referred her for health services and supported her with information and counselling on breastfeeding.

With limited available options, Amran* began introducing water and food to supplement her breastmilk. At six-months old, Sakariye* fell ill, getting frequent diarrhea. He started vomiting and having fevers. He grew so weak he couldn’t turn over any more. Amran* knew her baby was in danger. She brought him to Save the Children’s treatment center, where he was diagnosed with malnutrition and admitted.

Today, Amran* is sitting by her son’s cot on the ward. She’s smiling because she has seen big changes in him during the last few days.

“It is good we are here,” she says. “Sakariye* has started recovering. He takes injections and other medicines. They give him some nice therapeutic milk.” Sakariye* is getting stronger and so is his mum.

Amran* is able to breastfeed again and she is looking forward to taking her son home.

Mabior*, who has pneumonia, is breastfed by his mother Ayen* at a hospital in South Sudan.

All across East Africa, babies and young children are at risk of malnutrition. Every day, more than 15,000 children around the world die before reaching their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable or treatable causes.9 A large, and growing, share of them are newborn babies in the first month of life.

Save the Children works with partners at global, national, regional, and community levels to prevent malnutrition by bringing a wide-range of multi-sectoral interventions and programs to disadvantaged families.

While our main target population is mothers and children, Save the Children’s strategies also include support for fathers and other caregivers.

Save the Children’s Emergency Health and Nutrition programs focus on  lifesaving maternal, newborn and child healthcare, including breastfeeding promotion, protection and skilled support.

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to celebrate breastfeeding awareness, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

 

1. Nourishing the Youngest

2.Edmond, K M, Zandoh, C, Quigley, M A, Amenga-Etego, S, Owusu-Agyei, S and Kirkwood, B R, ‘Delayed breastfeeding initiation increases risk of neonatal mortality’, Pediatrics, March 2006, 117(3):e380-6

3. Mullany, L, Katz, J, Yue M Li, Subarna, K, Khatry, S, LeClerq, C, Darmstadt, G L,and Tielsch, J M, ‘Breast-feeding patterns, time to initiation, and mortality riskamong newborns in southern Nepal’, Journal of Nutrition, March 2008, 138(3):599–603

4.Source: UNICEF, World Breastfeeding Conference, December 2012

5. Uruakpa, F, ‘Colostrum and its benefits: a review’, Nutrition Research, 2002, 22, 755–767, Department of Food Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada.

6. State of the World’s Mothers Report 2015

7. Superfood for Babies: How Overcoming Barriers to Breastfeeding Will Save Children’s Lives

8. Nourishing the Youngest

8.WHO

9.End og Childhood Report 2017

Moms are the Heroes

We’ve all heard it before in one form or another: “Don’t get between a mother and her baby,” “There is nothing better (or worse depending on your position!) than a fired up mom” or “Mothers are their kids’ best advocates. However you phrase it, I see evidence of this everywhere I go for my work as Save the Children’s CEO and, I guess, Mom-in-Chief. It plays out whether I’m in Washington, DC or Lexington, Kentucky or the Bekka Valley of Lebanon. And during my trip last week to rural Nepal, I saw it again in full force.

Read Article

The Real Breastfeeding Scandal

The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post.

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2013-02-15-Time_cover_parody_HP.jpg

Last year, Time magazine’s “Are You Mom Enough?” cover practically shouted “Scandal! Women breastfeeding too long!”

 

The unforgettable image stirred up controversy and I’m sure it sold magazines. But are moms and kids any better off?

 

Now, imagine funneling all that outrage and punditry into something that really helped mothers and their babies when it came to breastfeeding — especially in the developing world where it can literally save lives.

The real scandal is not breastfeeding late, but that too many moms don’t get the support needed to breastfeed early — or to keep breastfeeding, should they want to.

 

In our new report, “Superfood for Babies,” Save the Children estimates that 830,000 babies could be saved every year if they were breastfed in the first hour of life. The colostrum, or first milk, provides a powerful shot of antibodies that can stave off deadly disease. And immediate breastfeeding more often leads to exclusive breastfeeding for six months, which can save even more lives.

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Thriving in Nacala: One Community’s Story

I recently spent a week in Africa, my second visit to the continent in 2012.  After a quick stop in Cape Town for The Economist’s global meeting on healthcare in Africa I went on to Mozambique to visit Save the Children programs in rural communities in the north of the country.

 

I came away from this trip with a renewed understanding of the huge difference it makes when a community is really involved with kids’ development. 

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Shocking News? Bipartisan Support for Child Health

Paige Harrigan 2 Paige Harrigan, Save the Children, Nutrition Advisor

Westport, CT

Friday, February 25, 2011


Last week, I found a pleasant surprise in the free Examiner newspaper they hand to commuters hurrying down Metro escalators here in Washington. The paper has a conservative slant, but the editorial on page 2 made the case for common political ground. The headline’s bold letters cried out, Child nutrition: A true bipartisan issue.

Yes! That was my personal reaction because I’m a mother and I’m a nutritionist. I know how critical proper nutrition is for childhood development and health. And here was the Examiner saying Michelle Obama’s child nutrition effort both “enjoys and deserves bipartisan support.”

Last month the same paper ran a story suggesting a possible link between the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign and an increase in pedestrian deaths. That story caught fire in some regions of talk radio and the blogosphere.

I only wish the Examiner’s message on child nutrition would catch major attention, too. Maybe it can, if only because, in the current political environment, bipartisanship is itself pretty shocking. Perhaps an even bigger story along the same lines could really grab the spotlight.

Imagine, for example, conservatives and liberals joining together in a broader strategy of investment around child health. Imagine them recognizing that the nutrition and health of children – not only in the United States, but also around the world – is directly connected to America’s future.

Well, surprise! On some level, that’s already happening. A broad range of officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Democrats like Sen. Richard Durbin and Rep. Nita Lowey, and Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Dave Reichert, are among those who agree that investing in development abroad is a critical investment in U.S. national security and our economic future.

Unfortunately, the House Republican leadership isn’t listening, yet. They’re talking about slashing all international assistance, which would drastically undermine programs for children’s nutrition and health. I wonder how much they have thought this position through. Too much austerity today not only denies millions of children the chance to grow up healthy and productive, it increases the risk of global instability and economic stagnation tomorrow.

That’s because, shockingly, one third of children in the developing world are chronically malnourished. That means their physical and intellectual growth is likely to be permanently stunted. They will never reach their full potential.

Malnutrition also puts these children at far greater risk of early death. Yet, things as simple as breastfeeding and introducing a more diverse diet to children under 2 can protect them from fatal disease. As it stands, eight million children die each year before they turn 5 years old, mostly from preventable and treatable causes, such as pneumonia and diarrhea.

U.S. foreign aid has been instrumental in helping many countries reduce child deaths – cutting the annual global toll in half over the last 40 years. We cannot stop now.

I think we can all agree we want to grow the global markets that our nation’s economic growth increasingly depends on. And I think we all can agree we must guard against global instability that costs us far more when it bubbles into terrorism and war.

So why not agree on this as well: let’s invest in children to provide an indispensable foundation for our future – both at home and abroad.