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Breast Feeding - The Key in Fighting Child Mortality in Africa

Every year the lives of several millions of babies could be saved by the easiest and most natural remedy of them all - breast-feeding.//

A research project conducted by field workers in remote Ghanaian villages has revealed that breast feeding babies with in an hour of being born could almost guarantee the life of the baby. A delay of even one day from the mother’s breast could more than double the child risks of dying within a month. In addition early introduction to animal milk or any other substitute for mother's milk pushed the child's chance of living for a month down to barely one in 10.

It has been estimated that in the developing world, four million babies die every year before they have reached the age of one month. This research, funded by the British Government, has shown that nearly a quarter of these babies could be saved if they were breastfed from the first hour of life.

Researchers studied the history of around 11,000 babies born within the same period of 12 months in 2003-04 in Brong Ahafo, the forest savannah region of central Ghana. Of these nearly 8,000 were breast-fed from the first day, and all but 70 lived through their first month. Those breast fed within the first hour were found to have a less than one in 150 risk of dying. But of the other 3,000, who started breastfeeding later or not at all, 74 - nearly one in 40 - died before they were a month old.

New born babies fed on other fluids or solids had a particularly high death rate, about four times higher death rate in the first month as babies who drank nothing but breast milk. Colostrum, the first milk produced after childbirth, is rich in a variety of components that help the gut to grow and build resistance to infection.

Substitutes, like animal milk, can disrupt the normal function of the gut. Often in remote villages, home-made feed, made with unclean water, comprised of cereals, animal milk and herbal concoctions or other liqu
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