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HEALTH REPORT - Breastfeeding, a Skill That Mom and Baby 'Learn From Each Other'

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Jill Hall with her son Thomas
Jill Hall with her son Thomas

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

This is World Breastfeeding Week. The celebration is now in its nineteenth year. It grew out of a meeting organized by UNICEF to find ways to support breastfeeding.

Jill Hall supports breastfeeding. In fact, she could be feeding her son right now.

(SOUND)

She gave birth to Thomas -- or Tiggy, as his parents call him -- at a hospital in Washington. They live in nearby McLean, Virginia.

Mother's milk is all Tiggy has eaten since he was born six weeks ago. And it will be all he eats for the first six months. His mother plans to follow the advice of the World Health Organization.

JILL HALL: "As you can see I can't tell right now whether he wants to eat more or whether he needs to burp, so we might try the burping.

Six-week-old babies generally breastfeed seven to nine times in a twenty-four-hour period.

Jill Hall has two stepdaughters, but Thomas is her first experience with breastfeeding. And, in her words, "It's going great."

JILL HALL: "It's pretty natural. You kind of learn from each other, mom and baby, how it's all going to work. And that can take a little bit of trial and error."Josie Tullo knows all about that. She works for a lactation consulting group in Fairfax, Virginia. She has more than twenty years of experience advising mothers. But she says babies themselves are great guides to nursing.

JOSIE TULLO: "When babies are born, babies have an instinctive need, they're hard-wired to breastfeed. So basically, if we were to place a baby on the mother's abdomen, the baby would actually crawl up the mother's chest and choose which breast it would like to latch on to. The baby will open its mouth twice, the second time with a nice wide mouth, and lean in to grasp the breast. That's the mother's cue to hug the baby to the breast."

Doctor Bernadette Daelmans is an expert on newborn and child health development for the World Health Organization. She offers estimates from the WHO and UNICEF about how many young lives could be saved through breastfeeding.

BERNADETTE DAELMANS: "If children were exclusively breastfed for six months, continued to breastfeed up to two years, with appropriate additional food from six months onwards, we could save 1.5 million children under five years of age out the 8.8 million that we estimate to die currently every year."

Breastfeeding reduces the chances of infections in the first few hours of life. Later, it reduces the chances of stomach and intestinal infections in babies.

Researchers say babies who are breastfed often grow up to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol as adults. They are less likely to be overweight and have type two diabetes.

Health studies also point to other benefits for the baby and the mother.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. You can read, download and comment on our reports at www.unsv.com. I'm Shirley Griffith.

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