Breastfeeding is one of the most essential phases when it comes to nurturing your baby. Your baby’s healthy growth and development is of utmost concern at that time and proper administration of mother’s milk ensures that. Packed with nutrients and antibodies, it is also not just good for the baby, but for the mother as well. Mother’s milk is extremely important for a baby since that is supposed to be the only source of nutrition for the first six months of their life, as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. However, a new report by the United Nations (UN) has released a shocking report which states that China, India, Nigeria, Mexico and Indonesia are four countries responsible for more than 236,000 child deaths each year due to inadequate breastfeeding. Nearly one lakh children die every year in India due to diseases that could have been prevented through breastfeeding, according to the UN report which said mortality and other losses attributed to inadequate breastfeeding could cost the country’s economy USD 14 billion. The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, a new report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective points out that breastfeeding not only helps prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants, it also helps reduce mothers’ risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women. The report goes on to say how in China, India, Nigeria, Mexico and Indonesia, the estimated future economic cost of mortality and cognitive losses attributed to inadequate breastfeeding are estimated to be almost USD 119 billion per year. According to the report, despite a reported 55 percent exclusive breastfeeding rate in children below the age of six months, the large population in India and high under five mortality means that an estimated 99,499 children die each year as a result of cases of diarrhea and pneumonia that could have been prevented through early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding. Further, the high level of child mortality and growing number of deaths in women from cancers and type II diabetes attributable to inadequate breastfeeding is estimated to drain the Indian economy of USD 7 billion. Together with another $7 billion in costs related to cognitive losses, India is poised to lose an estimated USD 14 billion in its economy, or 0.70 percent of its Gross National Income. “Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). He added that 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. Yet, the scorecard, which evaluated 194 nations, reveals that no country in the world fully meets recommended breastfeeding standards. It found that only 40 percent of children younger than six months are given nothing but breastmilk and only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 percent.

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