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How breastfeeding helps babies living in extreme poverty

Breastmilk makes the world healthier, smarter, and more equal

Pictured are (L) Safiatu Kamara (17) with her baby daughter, Awanatu and (R) Fatumata Kabia (17), who is pregnant with her first child. They are attending a gathering of the Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health groups in the town of Mapaki. Photo: Ki

The benefits of breastfeeding are unparalleled when it comes to a child’s health and nutrition. Breastfeeding leaves babies with a lower risk of obesity, diabetes and allergies such as asthma and lactose intolerance, and reduces the threat of sudden infant death syndrome – also known as cot death. Breastfeeding also makes sure that babies receive the essential vitamins and nutrients they need during the critical first few months and years of their life.

Breastfeeding timeline

Breastfeeding – started within an hour of birth - gives a baby the best start in life. Breastmilk is a superfood for babies, containing all the nutrients and vital ingredients they need in their first 6 months for their brains and bodies. It also protects them from illness, infection and disease, acting as a baby’s first vaccination.

Breastfeeding within the first hour of life dramatically increases a baby’s chances of surviving infancy.

At 6 months, a baby’s nutritional needs increase to support their growth and development, and they require nutrient-rich whole foods in addition to breastmilk. The WHO (World Health Organisation) advises mothers to start introducing small amounts of solid foods for their babies at 6 months while continuing to breastfeed up to 2 years of age and beyond. However, in poverty stricken countries, solid, nutritional foods are harder to come by, thus breastfeeding is even more vital to a baby’s health.

Six year old Bilach Dabelo, her mother Robe and baby Isacko are attending Basbalesa Health Centre for health and hygiene education.

How does breastfeeding help babies living in extreme poverty ‘Through to 2’?

Early and exclusively breastfeeding babies in the first six months and feeding our children foods with the right balance of nutrients provides them with the vital ingredients needed for a fully-functioning immune system that can protect them from illness, infection and disease.

Breastfeeding is important everywhere – but especially in the world’s poorest countries. There, contamination of artificial milks or infant formulas due to unclean water and poor hygiene conditions can quickly lead to malnutrition, illness and death. Breastfeeding removes this risk.

The deaths of 823 000 children and 20 000 mothers each year could be averted through universal breastfeeding. In fact, the scaling up of breastfeeding practices to almost universal levels is estimated to prevent 13.8% of all deaths of children younger than 24 months.

Through to 2

With our commitment to help babies Through to 2, Concern teaches  mums like Nadiya about breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, and how and when to introduce new foods. Early and exclusive breastfeeding and eating a varied diet are the foundations of good nutrition.

This is why we need your help.

How you can help

The first two years of a child’s life are so important for their future. If babies don’t have the proper food and care during this special time, the effects can be devastating. Nearly half of child deaths worldwide are link to malnutrition. And even for those who do survive, many must live with the consequences: they are likely to be small for their age, perform less well at school and be more susceptible to illness.

You can give children the building blocks of a healthy, happy life.

Sign up to Through to 2 now!