Monday October 22, 2018

World Breastfeeding Week: Breast milk, the answer to malnutrition in children

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Baby-global

By Nithin Sridhar

“World Breastfeeding Week” is being celebrated throughout the world from 1-August till 7-August.

The practice of dedicating the first week of August to breastfeeding of children was started in 1992 by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and ever since it has been celebrated every year in collaboration with United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and other organizations and governments.

WABA was formed in 1991 with an aim to promote breastfeeding worldwide. Breastfeeding has a large number of benefits to both mothers and children. It being the natural method of providing nutrition to children, is better than other kinds of feeding like formula feeding, especially in early months. Breastfeeding is especially effective in fighting malnutrition problems in children under 5-years of age, especially in developing and under developed countries.

Breastfeeding prevents malnutrition in children under 5-years of age

Mother carrying her child and weight on her head

Malnutrition is very much prevalent in India. According to NHFS 3 (2005-2006), 48% children of under 5-years are stunted, 19.8% of children are wasted (i.e. too thin with regard to their height) and 43% were underweight.

One of the best methods to fight malnutrition among under 5-years children is through breastfeeding. The Dadhich report quotes NHFS-3 statistics that show that the practice of breastfeeding the child within one hour of its birth is only 24.5% in India. The exclusive breastfeeding rates in children up to six months age is also just 46.4%.

If breastfeeding rates of both initiation within half or one hour of birth and exclusive feeding till 6 months are increased, there will be a definite decrease in malnutrition. The Dachich report illustrates the statistics from Lancet series to illustrate this. The Lancet series on child survival and new born survival has summarized that by achieving a 90% coverage in exclusive breastfeeding, around 13-15 percent of malnutrition deaths in under 5-years children, in the poor countries can be prevented.

Another report states: “Suboptimum breastfeeding, especially non-exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life, results in 1·4 million deaths and 10% of disease burden in children younger than 5 years.”

Therefore, India should attempt to double its exclusive breastfeeding rates, so that malnutrition can be effectively countered. Apart from fighting Malnutrition, breastfeeding has many health benefits for the babies as well.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breast milk is very vital for the growth of infants as they contain all the essential nutrients that are required by the baby. Ideally, the first breastfeed must be done within half an hour of the birth and exclusive breastfeeding must be carried out till the baby becomes 6-months old. Early initiation of breastfeeding is crucial as “colostrum” or the first milk contains various proteins, minerals, vitamins and antibodies that protects the child against diseases.

Breast milk is also easy to digest for the babies. Apart from this, breastfeeding helps to create a bond between the mother and the child and also reduces the risk of breast cancer in mothers.

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Breastfeeding also affects childhood intelligence and adult health. Children who were breastfed in their childhood are better protected against obesity, hypertension, and diabetes in their adult life. Therefore, various medical organizations including the WHO advice people to practice breastfeeding.

In 2014, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its member countries, while considering the reports submitted by India, advised India to: “Enhance efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding practices, including breastfeeding from birth, complementary feeding strategies, with or without provisionof food supplements, as well as micronutrient interventions for mothers; ensure the effective implementation of, and compliance with, the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (WHO, 1981); put in place a monitoring and reporting system to identify violations of the Code and take stringent measures in all situations of violations of the Code, which include the promotion and distribution of infant formula samples and promotional materials by private-sector companies involved in the marketing and distribution of infant formula.”

Therefore, the government, NGOs and the people must join hands in promoting and supporting breastfeeding practices that will in-turn lead to a reduction in malnutrition among children.

 

 

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  • Breast Milk is rightly called Lovebiotic for the infants! Babies are born to be breast-fed.

    • Jagdish Kumar Bhutani

      And the biological bonding, the act of breastfeeding creates is divine and eternal.

Next Story

Immunotherapy Drugs Show Significant Improvement Against Breast Cancer: Study

Side effects need a close look, both doctors said. Nearly all study participants had typical chemo side effects such as nausea or low blood cell counts.

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Breast Cancer
This undated fluorescence-colored microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of human breast cancer cells. For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. VOA

For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. But the benefit for most women was small, raising questions about whether the treatment is worth its high cost and side effects.

Results were discussed Saturday at a cancer conference in Munich and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Drugs called checkpoint inhibitors have transformed treatment of many types of cancer by removing a chemical brake that keeps the immune system from killing tumor cells. Their discovery recently earned scientists a Nobel Prize. Until now, though, they haven’t proved valuable against breast cancer.

Breast Cancer
Weight loss may lower breast cancer risk for post-menopausal women. Pixabay

In the study

The new study tested one from Roche called Tecentriq plus chemo versus chemo alone in 902 women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer. About 15 percent of cases are this type, their growth is not fueled by the hormones estrogen or progesterone, or the gene that Herceptin targets, making them hard to treat.

Women in the study who received Tecentriq plus chemo went two months longer on average without their cancer worsening compared with those on chemo alone, a modest benefit. The combo did not significantly improve survival in an early look before long-term follow-up is complete.

Failed protein test

Previous studies found that immunotherapies work best in patients with high levels of a protein that the drugs target, and the plan for the breast cancer study called for analyzing how women fared according to that factor if Tecentriq improved survival overall.

breast cancer
FILE – A patient receives chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer at the Antoine-Lacassagne Cancer Center in Nice, July 26, 2012. VOA

The drug failed that test, but researchers still looked at protein-level results and saw encouraging signs. Women with high levels who received the combo treatment lived roughly 25 months on average versus about 15 months for women given chemo alone.

That’s a big difference, but it will take more time to see if there’s a reliable way to predict benefit, said Dr. Jennifer Litton of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She had no role in running the study but enrolled some patients in it and oversees 14 others testing immunotherapies.

“We’re really hopeful that we can identify a group of women who can get a much bigger and longer response,” she said.

Another breast cancer specialist with no role in the study, Dr. Michael Hassett at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said he felt “cautious excitement” that immunotherapy may prove helpful for certain breast cancer patients.

Breast Cancer
Breast cancer cell, Wikimedia Commons

Side effects and cost

Side effects need a close look, both doctors said. Nearly all study participants had typical chemo side effects such as nausea or low blood cell counts, but serious ones were more common with the combo treatment and twice as many women on it stopped treatment for that reason.

Three of the six deaths from side effects in the combo group were blamed on the treatment itself; only one of three such deaths in the chemo group was.

Also Read: New DNA Tool To Predict People’s Height And Risk For Cancer

Cost is another concern. Tecentriq is $12,500 a month. The chemo in this study was Celgene’s Abraxane, which costs about $3,000 per dose plus doctor fees for the IV treatments. Older chemo drugs cost less but require patients to use a steroid to prevent allergic reactions that might interfere with the immunotherapy. Abraxane was chosen because it avoids the need for a steroid, said one study leader, Dr. Sylvia Adams of NYU Langone Health.

The study was sponsored by Roche and many study leaders consult or work for the company or own stock in it. (VOA)