The charity Save the Children makes the statement – equal to 830,000 lives saved per year – in a new report about global breastfeeding.
It states that if babies receive colostrum within an hour of birth, it will kick start the immune system, making them three times more likely to survive.
The report, Superfood for Babies
, adds that feeding for the next six months means a child in the developing world is up to 15 times less likely to die from killer diseases, such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.
However, global breastfeeding rates are stalling and even declining across East Asia and in some of Africa’s most populated countries, says the report.
The prevalence of traditional practices as well as a severe shortage of health workers and inappropriate marketing techniques by some baby milk substitute companies have contributed to this, it is claimed.
Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth said: ‘Despite the benefits of breastfeeding being widely known in the developed world, and it being a free, natural way to protect a newborn baby, too little attention is being paid to help mums breastfeed in poorer countries.’
The charity states that there are a number of factors to blame for the low global breastfeeding rates.
These include a shortage of midwives, lack of empowerment and education for women and inadequate maternity legislation in developed countries.
The report calls for the UK government to use its hunger summit and G8 presidency in June to fund nutrition work with breastfeeding as a core component.
It also recommends other donor countries step up funding for nutrition and that breast milk substitute companies should increase health warnings that formula is inferior to breast milk on their packaging.
For more information, or to read the report, please click here