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Since the start of time, mothers have been encouraged to breastfeed their babies. Not only is it the ideal food and a great source of nutrition for infants, but it also plays a major role in strengthening the child’s immune system. Yet, reports on the topic show that the rate of breastfed children is still lacking. Thus, with scientists uncovering the strong relation between breastfeeding and child malnutrition, breastfeeding children is becoming more essential than ever. 

Endless advantages

“Breastfeeding provides benefits during the time of breastfeeding, and those that are most recognized are protection against diarrhea, which is one of the top causes of mortality in low-income countries, protection against respiratory infections, against obesity – childhood obesity later on – as children get older, protection against leukemia,” said Dr. Grummer-Strawn, head of the World Health Organization’s Food and Nutrition Action in Health Systems unit.

Breastfed children also have, according to the WHO, better results on the intelligence tests. Moreover, they are less likely to suffer from diabetes as adults. 

However, despite all of these findings, data prove that nearly 2 out of 3 infants do not receive adequate breastfeeding during the crucial, recommended six months. Moreover, experts have directly and indirectly linked the lack of breastfeeding to the death of almost 820,000 children around the world per year. Thus, the lack of breastfeeding also costs the global economy a total of almost 300 billion dollars annually while filling the pockets of mischievous multinational, global corporations.

Benefits for mother and child alike

The UN also stressed breastfeeding’s crucial role in combating malnutrition, stating: “Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond, offers a powerful line of defense against all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting and obesity.” Therefore, the child’s intake of breastmilk can shape their entire physical health in the future. 

“Breastfeeding also acts as babies’ first vaccine, protecting them against many common childhood illnesses,” they added. 

On the other hand, breastfeeding can shield the mother from multiple health issues, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and Type 2 diabetes. Thus, “there are benefits for both the mother and the baby, and when we added these up it comes out to about 820,000 lives around the world, even in high-income countries,” stated the WHO.

COVID-19 role

For good or worse, the pandemic adds extra layers to the equation. Global efforts have managed to increase exclusive breastfeeding by half during the last four decades. However, in a true COVID-19 manner, misconceptions are shedding light on the fragility of these notable gains.

With the pandemic increasing malnutrition and disrupting breastfeeding support services, greed is taking advantage of the situation. 

“Several countries have reported that producers of baby foods have compounded these risks by invoking unfounded fears that breastfeeding can transmit COVID-19 and marketing their products as a safer alternative to breastfeeding,” WHO reported.

“We continue to be very concerned about the practices of the formula industries, both the big multinational corporations as well as in many countries there are local manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes that are trying to get mothers to get on to their products,” added Dr. Grummer-Strawn. “They use a number of tricks, sometimes it’s not as blatant advertising as it once was because they know that they can get caught.” 

Eliminating misconception 

Since the start of the pandemic, the World health organization has been persistent in its effort to eliminate any misconception regarding the lethal virus, raising awareness on all aspects of the virus’s transmissions.

“WHO has been very clear in its recommendations to say absolutely breastfeeding should continue,” said Dr. Grummer-Strawn. “We have never documented, anywhere around the world, any (COVID-19) transmission through breast milk.” 

In addition, experts explain that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the disadvantages of the current pandemic. This is because, according to Dr. Grummer-Strawn, the risk of a COVID-positive mother transmitting the virus to her infant is extremely low.

To further prove this point, experts have studied the breastmilk of several COVID-positive mothers from all around the globe. They then concluded that even though some of the milk contains the virus, none of it contained “actual infective virus.” 

References:

Breastfeeding. (2019, November 11). UN. https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_1Breastfeeding central to eliminating child malnutrition: Agency chiefs. (2021, August 5). UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/08/1096892Breastfeeding link to COVID-19 is negligible, says World Health. (2021, March 16). UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/08/1069522Joint statement by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week. (2021). UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/joint-statement-unicef-executive-director-henrietta-fore-and-who-director-general-0