When I started this blog, nearly two years ago, one of my very first posts was titled ‘Breast is Best, but there’s no need to keep shouting about it.’
I stand corrected.
Sometimes, it’s absolutely crucial to shout about it.
Not when you’re talking about the UK – where mothers can make an informed choice, and where babies are likely to grow up healthy and safe whatever choice they make – but in developing countries, where the choice can literally mean the difference between life and death.
The crucial time is the first hour after a baby’s birth – the power hour. If a mother breastfeeds her baby in this first hour, she provides him or her with vital antibodies that boost the immune system.
In the UK, 81% of mothers breastfeed their baby in the first hour after birth. In the developing world, that figure falls to 40% and in some places, like Cameroon and Burkina Faso, it falls as low as 20%.
If all babies were breastfed within the first hour of life, 830,000 children’s lives would be saved every year.
That’s 95 babies, every single hour.
It’s an astonishing figure.
So what can we actually do to help save those lives? What are the barriers to breastfeeding in the developing world?
According to a Save the Children report – Superfood for Babies – that is launched today, there are three key factors that are undermining the ability of women around the world to make an informed choice about feeding their babies.
- A massive shortage of midwives – 350,000 worldwide – means many women are deprived of the support and advice all mums so desperately need when they’ve just had a baby.
- Cultural factors play a part too. Without a health worker to give them accurate advice, some women are told that colostrum – the first milk – is actually bad for their babies. They often end up giving their babies sugar water, herbal tea or butter as the first feed.
- The marketing tactics and lobbying of some multinational breastmilk substitute companies, which can leave mums confused and lead to misunderstandings about the benefits of formula. We have evidence of certain manufacturers making potentially misleading advertising claims, giving health workers perks like free trips in return for recommending their formula to mums and even going into hospitals to promote their products directly to mums.
There was a brilliant article in the Guardian on Saturday by Zoe Williams, detailing more about the marketing practices of formula milk companies, which is well worth a read.
But just as there are three key challenges, there are three things that you can do to help, too.
1. You can take action by signing a petition calling on breast milk substitute companies to always put children first.
2. You can make a donation to help babies survive their first hour.
3. You can spread the word about this campaign. Follow @savechildrenuk on Twitter, and like their page on Facebook. Use the hashtag #firsthour to share links and posts on the campaign or use this bloggers toolkit to write your own post.
Thanks so much for your support. If we spread the word about the power of the first hour we really can help save lives.
Other bloggers who are supporting the campaign include Baby Budgeting, nixdminx, Life Love and Living with Boys, Circus Queen, Thinly Spread, PhD in Parenting, The Rose Diaries, The Restless Midwife, Faded Seaside Mama, Lulastic and the Hippyshake, Whisky for Aftershave, plus2point4, More4Mums, Hello It’s Gemma, Loquacious Lactator, Just Do It Mummy
Tomorrow I’ll have a guest post on DorkyMum from an inspirational woman called Tasya, who lives in Indonesia. She’ll be sharing her experiences of working with a grassroots organisation of women who use social media to support each other and share information about breastfeeding.