A nation of breastfeeding mothers can reduce the burden of their country’s health care costs and food security for the poor, said the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) this week.
World Breastfeeding Week, which runs from the 1 to the 7 August, is emphasising breastfeeding as ‘the foundation of life’ and highlighting the advantages of improving breastfeeding for communities and countries.
Registered Dietitian and ADSA spokesperson, Chantell Witten, who is also a researcher at North West University says, “It is well-proven that breastfeeding reduces disease risk. Breastfeeding substantially protects infants against death, diarrhoea, chest and ear infections. Breastfeeding also helps to prevent malnutrition in all its forms. It protects against overweight, obesity, diabetes as well as the various health consequences of under-nutrition. For mothers, breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and of high blood pressure.”
Witten said infants who are not exclusively breastfed; who are given food earlier than age six months and who are not following a varied diet, are at higher risk of malnutrition and death.
Globally, if higher rates of optimal breastfeeding were practiced, 823 000 annual deaths in children under the age of five years and 20 000 deaths from breast cancer could be averted.