World Breastfeeding Week Prompts World Suckle Record

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Women in Lima, Peru, take part in a World Breastfeeding Week activity in 2008. (Photo: Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

When it comes to World Breastfeeding Week, you’ve got to celebrate in your own way.

While women in Gambia prepared to take part in a series of workshops and promotion programs, mothers in Oregon plan to take a slightly different tack: attempting a world record for simultaneous breastfeeding moms.

Called The Big Latch On, the Oregon event aims to bring together hundreds of women and babies to break a record set in New Zealand last year, when 1,306 mothers bested the 2008 record of 1,122.

The women will be gathering to promote the benefits of breastfeeding, which doctors say could save more than a million children each year if proper practices were observed worldwide.

Research says that feeding a child only breast milk and nothing else—not even water—for the first six months of life can improve a child’s health prospects, and reduce neonatal mortality by up to 20 percent

But many mothers around the world aren’t educated about the potential benefits of breastfeeding. In India, for instance, where breastfeeding is recommended in the very first hour after birth, only about 25 percent of new mothers perform the practice. In some regions, that figure falls to as low as 4 percent.

Efforts to spread the word about a breast milk-only diet for six months have taken root in recent years, UNICEF reports. In Ghana, for example, the number of mothers engaging in exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months has gone up from less than 10 percent to more than 50 percent, UNICEF Chief of Health Dr. Mickey Chopra says in an informational video on the organization’s site.

Chopra credits the efforts of local health workers with the improvement of breastfeeding rates worldwide. He says educating and urging those health workers to promote breastfeeding is key to popularizing the practice.

The World Health Organization has published a series of 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding to bolster the effort.

Groups around the world this week will be holding all kinds of events to spread the word about breastfeeding benefits—including that world-record attempt in Oregon.

The American women will have competition: sources say the New Zealanders expect to break their own record again in 2010.

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