Thursday, February 21, 2013

How to Save 830,000 Children #firsthour

What if there was an incredible Superfood for Babies that we could give to children within their first hour of life that could literally save their life? What if it wasn't expensive? Or an even crazier thought, what if it was free to every child in the world?

Not only does this exist, it is free, and it could save 830,000 children every year!

It's colostrum and breast milk! 

Breastfeeding is critical in preventing malnutrition and saving children's lives in developing countries. Mothers in the developing world, and everywhere, need to be aware of the miraculous wonders of breast milk, especially the colostrum, and they need the support and rights to provide this lifesaving nutrition to their children.
What is this colostrum you ask? It is "liquid gold." It is the very first "milk" that comes out of the breast. It is sometimes yellow in color or may be clear and is more similar to blood than milk, which is why I put milk in quotations above. Colostrum is full of protective white blood cells and antibodies. It is made naturally by the mother's body specifically for newborns in that it is easy to digest, coats their intestines to protect from bacteria, and promotes bowel movements to help eliminate the first stools, which are black, tarry, and called meconium (Huggins, K. (2010). The Nursing Mother's Companion.). 

Breast milk provides all of the nutrients essential for a newborn baby. It grows as baby grows and it adjusts to meet the demands of that individual baby. The human body is incredibly amazing! 

Fun fact: If a newborn is placed on their mother's chest, they will search and, most of the time, find the breast to eat!

In a report from Save The Children, it is estimated that if all babies were breastfed within the first hour of life, 830,000 children could be saved! That number is huge! And breastfeeding could make the difference! The reason for the need during that first hour is back up to the colostrum we just talked about. A quote from their report says it all when it calls colostrum "the most potent natural immune system booster known to science." 

The magic pill every one is searching for lies within our breasts, ladies! 

A few more facts and numbers (from the Superfood for Babies Report):

  • 22% of newborn deaths could be prevented if breastfeeding started within the first hour after birth.
  • 16% of newborn deaths could be prevents if breastfeeding started within the first 24 hours.
  • Infants who are not breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia 
  • Infants who are not breastfed are 11 times more likely to die of diarrhea than those who were exclusively breast for the first six months of life. 
  • A study from Brazil found that infants who were not breastfeed at all had a 14 times greater risk of death than those who were exclusively breastfed, while those who were partially breastfed had a 4 times greater risk of death.
  • An infant given breast milk within the first hour of life is three times more likely to survive than one breastfed a day later.
Even with all of these wonderful facts with science to back them up, it's not as simple as it sounds. In their report, Save The Children found 4 common barriers to breastfeeding. 

1. Community and Cultural Pressures
  • Many mothers in poor countries receive bad advice or are pressured to not breastfeed, and instead to give the infants other things such as water, sugar water, herbal teas. In many of these countries, the water is contaminated so newborns are exposed to parasites and diseases.
  • Many women are not free to make their own decisions regarding breastfeeding and it is left to the husband or family.
  • Some cultures discard the colostrum because of religious beliefs, incorrect knowledge; i.e. It has been in the breast for 9-10 months and needs to be discarded, newborns cannot drink it because it is too thick 

2. The Health Worker Shortage
  • One-third of infants are born without a skilled birth attendant.
  • This means the mother receives no support for that first feeding.
  • The earlier someone can help the mother and baby with breastfeeding, issues can be cleared up from the start.
3. Lack of Maternity Legislation
  • When a woman is supported by family and healthcare workers, if she is not supported in her place of employment then breastfeeding rates decline.
  • Three areas of national policy play a key role in a woman's ability to breastfeed:
    • Maternity Leave
    • Financial Protection to help maintain the family's income while the mother is on maternity leave
    • Workplace provision to all breastfeeding to continue when she returns to work
  • This report calls for every country to ensure a minimum of 14 weeks for maternity leave, with an aim for 18 weeks.
  • This is not just for other countries. It is for mothers like you and me who need support when we are breastfeeding our children. 
  • The US maternity law only protects your job for 12 weeks and it does not require your employer to cover pay.
4. The Big Business Barrier
 (Before you stop reading here, I am not again formula when it is needed. But clean water is also needed to make formula, which is lacking in many of the world's poorest countries.)
  • They often undermine breastfeeding with advertising, free samples, and health claims on packaging.
  • Some have been known to offer incentives to health workers in poor countries in order to get them to encourage formula over breastfeeding. 
  • Again, you need good clean water to give formula.
So why am I sharing this information today? First, because every woman in the world should know how incredibly her body is made and what the amazing nutrition it can provide. Secondly, because mothers around the world need support when it comes to breastfeeding and you can help.

You can go to here and sign the petition for Secretary of Sate John Kerry to demand the renewal of the 1000 Days of Call to Action - a lifesaving initiative that improves nutrition for pregnant mothers and their babies. This helps moms in the US and around the world. 

1,000 Days of Call to Action is set to expire in June. This refers to the 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child's second birthday where there are the best chances to prevent malnutrition. Since 2010, this international partnership has helped develop strategies for fighting and preventing malnutrition in infant and children in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Tanzania. 

Here is an amazing video that shows the work that is being done by Save the Children

Save the Children is doing amazing work around the world and in the US. Through their campaign for Health Kids, they have advocated for legislation at the state level to help breastfeeding mothers. Here are the recent ones that have been a success:

  • In 2011 legislation passed in Louisiana requiring state buildings to provide suitable spaces (that are not a bathroom) for breastfeeding, which went into effect July 1, 2012.
  •  In 2011 legislation passed in Tennessee, striking language requiring children to be under 12 months old in order for mothers to be allowed to breastfeed in public, which went into effective July 1, 2011.
  •  In 2010 legislation passed in Arizona requiring private areas for breast feeding as part of childcare regulation reform.

Please take the few seconds it takes to sign this petition

As a mom to a two year old who just stopped breastfeeding less than a year ago (March 2012), this hits close to home. I was not aware of the wonders of breast milk until I was in nursing school. I was amazed at the incredible ability of the body to make something that provides all the nutrients this tiny human needs. When I read about it in books, it seems so simple: put baby to breast, they eat. Fast forward 5 years, and I realized it wasn't that simple. Yes a baby will find it's way to the mother's breast immediately after birth but that little minute-old baby might not know the best way to latch. Mothers need education and support when it comes to breastfeeding. They need heath workers who can show them the proper way for the baby to latch to the breast. 

My sweet girl was born here in the US and in a good hospital. I had a doctor and several nurses at my bedside, along with my husband. Everyone was supportive and encouraging. My daughter was put to my breast right after she was cleaned up a little and we attempted to feed her. (I say "we" because I had a nurse holding my breast.) And guess what, we had trouble getting everything to work. Yes there was a breast and a baby but we needed more help than that. Luckily, I had access to help. My daughter and I were not naturals at breastfeeding. Their were tearful days and painful moments. When she was two weeks old, I developed mastitis and had to go to the doctor for antibiotics. After that, we had latch issues. Then we had supply issues. But you know what, I had help and support and we were able to succeed at breastfeeding. And I live in an area with clean water so if and when she needed formula, she could have it and I didn't have to be worried that she would die from the parasites and diseases in the water. Some moms don't have the luxury of being able to fall back on clean water.

The entire time I breastfed my daughter I was amazed. My body knew how to make what she needed. It took practice but we figured it out. She was breastfed exclusively for 5 1/2 months (just shy of 6 months) and then partially for 13 months. As the anniversary of her last nightly breastfeeding draws near, I am so thankful for that time. I now appreciate my breasts because they provided life to my daughter. Not only did they provide nutrition but also protection for the rest of her life. I used them for what they were made for and even though there were some painful, tear-filled moments, I wouldn't trade those 13 months for anything. 

We all need to do our part and help support moms who want to breastfeed! 

If you haven't already, please go here and sign the petition for Secretary of Sate John Kerry to demand the renewal of the 1000 Days of Call to Action. 

A simple click and a few key strokes could save the lives of 830,000 babies. 

Even if it was just one, isn't that worth your time?

I am a part of the Global Team of 200 and Social Good Moms' 24-Hour Blogathon spreading the word about Save the Children's new breastfeeding report, Superfood for BabiesSign the petition urging Secretary Kerry to help mothers around the world get more support around breastfeeding and lifesaving nutrition for their babies. 
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