Some 800,000 child deaths could be avoided each year if mothers breastfed, study finds

In Ireland just 2% of mothers breastfeed until their child's first birthday

Some 800,000 child deaths could be avoided each year if mothers breastfed, study finds

[Pixabay]

Around 800,000 child deaths worldwide could be avoided each year if more women breastfed, a study has found.

It also suggested near-universal breastfeeding could prevent an extra 20,000 women dying from breast cancer.

The research, published in the Lancet medical journal, outlines the benefits of breastfeeding, not only for children but also their mothers.

For example, it found it can increase a child's life expectancy and reduce their chances of developing diabetes and obesity.

For mothers, breastfeeding is said to better protect against ovarian and breast cancer.

In high income countries, one in five children are breastfed up until their first birthday.

In low or middle income countries just one in three are exclusively breastfed to six months.

Lead researcher Professor Cesar Victora, from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, told Sky News: "Our work for this series clearly shows that breastfeeding saves lives and money in all countries, rich and poor alike.

"Therefore, the importance of tackling the issue globally is greater than ever.

"There is a widespread misconception that breast milk can be replaced with artificial products without detrimental consequences."

Worldwide, breastfeeding rates are low, particularly in developed countries like Ireland, where just 2% of mothers breastfeed a child up until its first birthday.

In the UK, the figure is 1% and in Denmark 3%.