There is a very powerful campaign from Save The Children launching today about breastfeeeding.

“We have made dramatic progress, stopping children dying from preventable disease over the last decade, down from 12 million to 6.9 million in the last decade. But whilst there are fewer children dying, we’re not making the progress we should in reducing malnutrition which is still the underlying cause of a third of all child deaths.

Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to tackle malnutrition; a simple, natural way to boost a baby’s immune system. Each hour 95 babies – 830,000 each year – could be saved if a mother breastfeeds in the first hour of life.

The enormous progress already made in reducing child mortality could be accelerated if more mums were encouraged to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding declining

Despite the startling statistics, global breastfeeding rates are stalling and actually declining across East Asia and in some of Africa’s most populous countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria.

The prevalence of traditional practices as well as a severe shortage of health workers and examples of inappropriate marketing techniques by some baby milk substitute companies, have contributed to this.

Our Chief Executive Justin Forsyth said: “Despite the benefits of breastfeeding being widely known in the developed world, and it being a free, natural way to protect a newborn baby, too little attention is being paid to help mums breastfeed in poorer countries.”

Questionable marketing

Our new report, Superfood for Babies, also highlights questionable marketing practices adopted by some breast milk substitute companies active in emerging markets.

Asia is a lucrative new market for the industry which is already worth £16 billion and set to grow as whole by 31% by 2015.

In East Asia and the Pacific, the number of breastfeeding mothers has fallen from 45% in 2006 to 29% in 2012.

Research by Save the Children in Asia found mothers who cited examples of marketing activity which violate the internationally agreed code for marketing of breast milk substitutes.

In Mexico we found people giving their babies coffee. In other places butter.

Act now

We want companies to do more to tell mothers about the free benefits of breast milk.

That’s why were calling on two of the largest baby formula companies, Nestlé abd Danone to give over a third of their product packing to warnings of the potential health risks of not breastfeeding.

Sign our petition to Nestlé and Danone

Success is possible.

As actress Isla Fisher reports from in Brazil, breastfeeding rates have risen dramatically from 3.6% to 40% since 1986.

There are milk banks in every hospital and even the emergency services are involved. Ambulance drivers and firemen go from door to door picking up donated milk and delivering it back to the banks.

There’s a real opportunity this year as David Cameron leads the G8 in Britain this year.

He has already shown powerful leadership making new vaccines available to poor people and by agreeing to host a hunger summit.

But the Prime Minister must go further, and step up to fund concrete plans to tackle malnutrition, with breastfeeding at its core.

Read our new report on how breastfeeding saves lives