News / Africa

Report: Superfood for Babies

Nurse Koletha teaches Mwajuma how to breastfeed her one-day-old baby boy at the Lindi Regional Hospital, Tanzania. (Credit: Caroline Trutmann / Save the Children )
Nurse Koletha teaches Mwajuma how to breastfeed her one-day-old baby boy at the Lindi Regional Hospital, Tanzania. (Credit: Caroline Trutmann / Save the Children )

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
A new report says more than 800,000 babies’ lives could be saved every year, if all women began breastfeeding within the first hour of giving birth. Save the Children calls breastfeeding one of the best ways to prevent malnutrition, a major killer of children under age five. 


Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles says it’s vital to begin breastfeeding soon after a child is born.

“It’s extremely critical because to get mothers to actually start breastfeeding can sometimes be the hardest part. And that first milk from mothers, that contains something called colostrum, is an incredibly nutritious form of breast milk and it actually has a lot of immunity powers, as well. And it really only happens in those first couple of hours,” she said.

The report describes colostrum as a child’s “first immunization.” But in some cultures, such as parts of Niger, there’s a myth that colostrum is dangerous.

“One of the biggest barriers that we found, when we looked at this report, to moms’ breastfeeding, is a lot of these cultural beliefs and one of them is that colostrum is, in fact, bad for babies. So, in a lot of places around the world the mothers actually throw it out. And it’s the best thing that you could be giving to your babies. So a lot of this is about behavior change. And those are just old traditions that have been passed down and things that we’re trying to change, obviously,” said Miles.

Many mothers believe their babies need to eat something besides breast milk. Miles said that water, sugar water and tea are not necessary.

“Actually babies don’t need any of those things. To demonstrate this we asked people to watch their animals. Watch the fact that baby animals don’t drink water. They just drink mother’s milk. It’s just the same with human babies. They don’t need anything but breast milk,” she said.

There’s another reason, she said, to start breastfeeding early.

“The earlier moms start breastfeeding the more likely they are to continue breastfeeding for the first six months. And that has tremendous health benefits for babies,” she said.

The head of Save the Children said another obstacle to breastfeeding is a shortage of healthcare workers in developing countries.

“When I went and had my baby at the hospital I had somebody helping me learn how to breastfeed. It’s not the easiest thing in the world. It’s very helpful to have somebody help you learn how to do that. These health workers, with basic knowledge, are really important to help moms start breastfeeding and to keep breastfeeding.”

The report, Super Food for Babies, recommends that every country should ensure minimum maternity leave of at least 14 weeks. And when women do return to work, they should receive support so they can continue to breastfeed.

Miles said that an additional obstacle to breastfeeding is the lobbying practices of some companies that manufacture baby formulas. She said the International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes says companies cannot directly target their advertising campaigns to mothers, health care workers or hospitals.

She said that great strides have been made in recent years in efforts to reduce child mortality. She says even more lives could be saved if many more women breastfed their babies.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs