Breast feeding can really help save the lives of more and more children as malnutrition continues to remain the major cause of death in infants, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

The UN agency says malnutrition is the major source of death of infants and contributes about one-third of the nine million deaths of children before they reach five years. Of these, a good percentage is associated with negligence during breast-feeding, and bottle-feeding.

Out of the 8.8 million infants dying each year, around 1.5 million babies could be saved only by exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months and administering nutritious complementary food with continued breastfeeding up to two years.

If infants were breast-fed for long periods of time, most children could be saved, estimates WHO and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The benefits of breast-feeding are not restricted to the short-term. It is also beneficial in the long-run, according to Bernadette Daelmans, a Medical Officer in WHO’s Division for Newborn and Child Health and Development.

Breast-feeding is not only important as the source of nutrition; it also helps save babies’ lives. This year’s motto during the World Breast-feeding Week (August 1 to 7), is to make breast feeding more success in the developing world. The event is celebrated across 170 countries.

Breast-feeding is the safest and the most harmless food for growing babies and infants. In fact, breast-feeding is the ideal food as it contains all the nutrients that a growing baby needs to take. In addition, it generates the antibodies in the child to fight childhood diseases.

Benefits from breast-milk are carried forward into adult life. Cholesterol levels and blood pressure is controlled because of being breast-fed early in life. It also helps against cancers of the breast and ovaries.

WHO and UNICEF have developed a 10-step checklist for health facilities to ensure that there is proper breast-feeding. This checklist is followed by hospitals in more than 150 countries.