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Global and Environmental Issues Affecting Breastfeeding Mothers

Deborah Sowery-Quinn
Burlington ON Canada
Report from the 2005 LLLI Conference
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 5, September-October 2005, p. 211

Dr. Miriam Labbok, MD, MPH, FACPM, IBCLC, is a physician with pediatrics training and experience in public health, an author, and a speaker. During her session, "Global and Environmental Issues Affecting Breastfeeding Mothers," she discussed current global public health and environmental issues and their impact on breastfeeding. Labbok provided interesting and astonishing facts about how improved infant feeding can impact child survival, including:

  • Each year nearly three million children over six months of age die from malnutrition;
  • Nearly two million deaths of children less than five years old could be prevented by improved breastfeeding (1.3 million) and complementary feeding (.6 million).

A wide variety of information was presented, including charts that highlighted the progress of the WHO Code year by year in various countries, the risk of death from acute respiratory infections and diarrhea among non-breastfed children compared to breastfed infants, and the percentage of children under five that would be saved with preventive interventions, including breastfeeding. Another interesting piece of information that Labbok discussed was from a study on baby friendly initiatives in Belarus. Children born in baby friendly hospitals were more likely to be breastfed at three and six months and significantly less likely to experience conditions such as gastrointestinal tract infections and eczema. Baby friendly programs in the US have had similar positive effects on breastfeeding. Labbok noted that the percentage of hospitals that are baby friendly correlates with the rates of exclusive breastfeeding.

Other factors in the international environment that impact breastfeeding were also addressed in great detail, including women’s roles in society, population issues, environmental issues, HIV/AIDS, and bacterial resistance to drugs.

Labbok presented an impressive, intelligent, and witty session. Her knowledge and passion were evident and her commitment to breastfeeding is commendable.

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