Legislation against the promotion of breast milk substitutes must be significantly tightened if global efforts to encourage breast feeding are to succeed, a UN report has warned.
It is widely recognized that breastfeeding carries huge health benefits, but countries 'fail to crack down on the marketing of substitutes means far too many children are still being reared on formula,' said the World Health Organization, the UN children's agency UNICEF and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN).
'There are still far too many places where mothers are inundated with incorrect and biased information through advertising and unsubstantiated health claims,' warned Francesco Branca, head of WHO's Nutrition for Health and Development department.
A study in the Lancet medical journal earlier this year estimated that more than 800,000 child deaths and 20,000 breast cancer deaths could be averted every year if more babies were breastfed for longer.
'This can distort parents' perceptions and undermine their confidence in breastfeeding, with the result that far too many children miss out on its many benefits,' he said in a statement. Experts have long extolled the health benefits of breastfeeding, pointing out that breastfed children are healthier, perform better on intelligence tests and are less likely to be overweight or suffer from diabetes later in life. Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, research shows. A recent study, published in the Journal Cell, suggests that mother's milk gives babies antibodies along with microbes which majorly helps in improving their immunity.(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)