Breastfeeding saves lives.

Those interested in health should not ignore breastfeeding.  Medical professionals and missionary persons should promote, support and encourage breastfeeding for the health of the mother and her baby.  For example, here are some statistics that occurred frequently on the web during World Breastfeeding Week.


About 9 to 10 million children under the age of 5 die each year.  Most of these deaths are preventable.  Thirteen percent of these deaths could be avoided if mothers exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding at least until the child turned two years of age.  According to Lancet, breastfeeding is “the single largest impact on child survival of all preventive interventions!” 


Why is so little said about breastfeeding when it is so important to many babies’ health and survival?  Breastfeeding alone could save 1.3 million lives every year.


In emergencies, breastfed children do much better.  During the first 3 months of armed conflict in Guinea-Bissau (1998), the mortality rate of non-breastfed children was 6 times higher compared to that of breastfed children in the 9-20 month old age group.  During the earthquake in Indonesia (2006), formula was brought in for breastfeeding babies.  Babies receiving formula doubled their occurrence of diarrhea to 25% while the breastfed babies had a 12% rate of diarrhea.  In Botswana (2005/6) formula was brought in and the water was contaminated.  Non-breastfed babies were 50 times more likely to need hospital treatment and were even dying compared to breastfed babies.  In emergencies, breastfed babies are healthier.


In normal times or in an emergency, the best gift a mother can give her baby is to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and to continue nursing for at least one year…but nursing for two years is even better.  Many professionals are now encouraging mothers to nurse for at least two years.  Even Pope John Paul II encouraged mothers to nurse “up to the second year of life or beyond.”


Sheila Kippley

Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood

Comments are closed.