Increasing the number of mothers who breastfeed will save lives, make children smarter and boost global economies, according to a UN report.
The report titled: “The Global Breastfeeding Collective”, was led by UNICEF and the WHO.
The UN agencies, therefore, called on countries to invest in educational campaigns and health programmes to encourage breastfeeding as well as enforcing an international code to prevent the misleading marketing of formula milk.
According to the research, only 40 per cent of children under six months are exclusively breastfed, which is the first worldwide analysis of its kind.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO said in a statement that mothers should start breastfeeding within one hour of birth and continue until the child is two years old.
“Feeding them exclusively with breast milk for the first six months is highly recommended by WHO and UNICEF.
“Breastmilk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive.
“If targets for 50 per cent of babies to be exclusively breastfed by 2025 are met, 520,000 children’s lives could be saved over the next 10 years.
“Cognitive boosts could generate 300 billion dollars in economic gains across lower- and middle-income countries, the World Bank estimates,’’ Ghebreyesus said.
According to figures from the Global Breastfeeding Collective, every dollar invested in breastfeeding generates 35 dollars in economic returns.
The report calls for an investment of 4.7 dollars per newborn into efforts to increase the number of babies under six months who are exclusively breastfed; this translates to a global investment of 5.7 billion dollars