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Optimal breast feeding of children under the age of 2 years may prevent up to 1.3 million deaths each year.1 Breast feeding has many advantages for a newborn infant, most notably reducing the incidence, severity and duration of infections.2,–,5 Neonatal sepsis, respiratory tract infections and diarrhoea are three of the most important causes of childhood deaths in the South (the South is used as a term for low-income and low–middle-income countries as these are predominantly based in the Southern Hemisphere). Breast feeding has been shown to reduce the risk of death from all three of these infections.2 3 These three conditions are major problems in low-income countries and therefore it is important that mothers are encouraged to breast feed. Unfortunately for a variety of different reasons breastfeeding rates vary considerably in different communities. Exclusive breast feeding confers the greatest benefit to the infant.3 Health professionals will often recommend breast feeding for most women. If, however, the woman is receiving drug therapy, the health professional may discourage breast feeding because of the worry of drug toxicity to the newborn infant. Studies have shown that in the majority of cases breast feeding is discouraged inappropriately.6,– …
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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