In 2011, more than 6.9 million children died before their fifth birthday. Over 98% of these deaths occurred in developing countries. India accounted for 1.6 million deaths. Pediatricians and public health experts say exclusive breastfeeding for six months can save many such children.
According to the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF), breastfeeding is the most effective and inexpensive way of saving a child’s life.
“Breastfeeding is a baby’s ‘first immunization’ and the most effective and inexpensive life-saverever,” says UNICEF deputy executive director Geeta Rao Gupta. “There is no other single intervention that has such a high impact for babies and mothers as breastfeeding and which costs so little for governments.” She says starting breastfeeding in the first hour after birth can reduce the risk of newborn death by up to 22% by averting deaths related to sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhoea and hypothermia.