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Breastfeeding could prevent 800,000 child deaths, study suggests

Women take part in a breastfeeding flashmob on September 12, 2015. (JONAS ROOSENS/AFP/Getty Images)

A new two-part report published by The Lancet argues that more than 800,000 child deaths each year could be prevented if every mother would breastfeed her children. According to the report, the most comprehensive review of breastfeeding studies ever, breastfeeding has a myriad of health benefits as children who are breastfed longer have higher IQs, lower death rates and less risk of infection. Because of lack of government and community support and an aggressive formula milk industry, however, breastfeeding is falling way below international targets in many middle- and lower-income countries. “The success or failure of breastfeeding should not be seen solely as the responsibility of the woman,” said Dr. Nigel Rollins of WHO, a co-author of the study. “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 programs in the community.”

The report calculated that not breastfeeding is costing the global economy $302 billion in lost earnings, and found that if breastfeeding were scaled up to near-universal levels, it would prevent 823,000 deaths of children under five each year. Besides all the social, medical and economic benefits, there is even an environmental argument to be made: to produce just 2.2 pounds of formula powder, 1.057 gallons of water are needed.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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