The most comprehensive analysis of studies on the benefits of breast-feeding revealed that breast-feeding could literally save the lives babies and mothers alike. The review paper showed that breast milk has dozens of health benefits for the child, while breast-feeding shields the mother from breast and ovarian cancers.
For the new research, which was published in the journal Lancet, scientists sifted through over 1,300 research papers on the topic. Scientists have found that if more mothers would breast-feed their children about 820,000 infant deaths could be prevented every year, reducing by 13 percent infant mortality worldwide.
Dr. Cesar Victora, one of the researchers involved in the new study and epidemiology professor at the Federal University of Pelotas, explained that breast milk acts just like a vaccine that protects babies against diseases.
The recent research showed that mothers in the developing world could lower the incidence of respiratory infections by one-third and diarrhea cases by a half by simply breast-feeding their children. Additionally, in the developed world breast-feeding apparently lowers the risk of death by sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by more than 33 percent.
The study also revealed that the longer a child was breastfed the higher the IQ that child has.
Furthermore, mothers also benefit from the practice. The review paper found that breast-feeding could prevent 20,000 deaths from breast cancer annually. Plus, breastfeeding was often associated with lower incidence of breast and ovarian cancer in women.
But despite the obvious health benefits, breast feeding rates have remained flat in the last 20 years. Additionally, the more economically developed a country is, the less likely its population to engage in breast-feeding.
As of now, in the Western world, only 20 percent of infants are breast-fed through the age of 12 months, while in the emerging economies one in three infants are breast-fed until they are 6 months old.
Researchers have also found that every time the GDP per capita doubles, the breast-feeding rate drops 10 percent. What’s more, many moms in the developed world believe that they are more ‘modern’ if they opt for formula feeding. This conception is heavily promoted by formula makers through advertising. Currently, the baby formula industry is expected to worth over $70 billion per year by 2020.
Usually, commercials misleadingly promote the formula as a healthier, more nutritious alternative to breast milk which does women and their children a great disservice, researchers noted.
Image Source: Flickr