We have established time and again that breastfeeding is extremely beneficial to both mother and child. A new report published in the medical journal The Lancet reviewed more than 1,300 studies that concerned breastfeeding (making it the most detailed and comprehensive analysis of breastfeeding research ever) and confirmed that increasing rates and length of time that mothers breastfeed could have a tremendous global health impact. After examining breastfeeding trends in various countries, the authors of the report determined that achieving universal levels of breastfeeding could help save the lives of 820,000 children each year — since breastfeeding helps babies fight disease along with providing nutrition and has been linked with lower rates of SIDS, respiratory infections, and diarrhea. The life-saving benefits of breastfeeding for moms include reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancers. Ironically, despite the wealth of information about the benefits of breastfeeding, women living in high-income countries have lower breastfeeding rates than those in low-to middle-income countries. They also generally breastfeed for a shorter time. Citing a growing and aggressive formula market and the perception that formula is associated with a modern, affluent lifestyle as well as the fact that breastfeeding often requires support from the medical community and society in general, many women choose bottle over breast. Some countries, such as Brazil, have lengthened the amount of time women breastfeed over the past few decades through increased parental leave and support services, and the authors tout this positive example of a societal change in perceptions about breastfeeding as evidence that rates and length of time breastfeeding can be increased in other places around the world… with the right policies in place. The report notes breastfeeding support in the hospital setting, a better regulated formula market, and practices such as protected nursing breaks and insurance coverage for breast pumps as potential steps in support of breastfeeding.

+ The Lancet’s Breastfeeding Series

via CNN

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