New York/Geneva: Every three in five babies across the globe are not breastfed within the first hour of life. Most of these babies are born in low- and middle-income are put at higher risk of death and disease, making them less likely to continue breastfeeding, say UNICEF and WHO in a new report. August 1-7 is commemorated as World Breastfeeding Week.
Importance of breastmilk in the early hour of a newborn’s life
The report also notes that newborns who breastfeed in the first hour of life are significantly more likely to survive. Even a delay of a few hours after birth could pose life-threatening consequences. Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulate the mother’s production of breastmilk. Colostrum, the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.
The findings of the study
Capture the Moment, which analyses data from 76 countries, found that despite the importance of early initiation of breastfeeding, too many newborns are left waiting too long for various reasons, which include feeding newborns food or drinks, including formula, gaps in the quality of care provided to mothers and newborns, and most surprisingly, the rise in C-sections.
Earlier studies, cited in the report, show that newborns who began breastfeeding between two and 23 hours after birth had a 33% greater risk of dying compared with those who began breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
This report comes in the backdrop of the high level meeting the Partners Forum — PMMCH+2018 which will be held in Delhi in December with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the patron. More than 1200 partners would join in to sharing success stories and exchange knowledge on saving mothers and newborns.
“When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything. In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death,” says Henrietta H Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Yet each year, millions of newborns miss out on the benefits of early breastfeeding and the reasons – all too often – are things we can change. Mothers simply don’t receive enough support to breastfeed within those crucial minutes after birth, even from medical personnel
at health facilities.”
“Breastfeeding gives children the best possible start in life,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We must urgently scale up support to mothers – be it from family members, health care workers, employers and governments, so they can give their children the start they deserve.”.
Situation in India
The Government of India has launched the MAA (Mother’s Abosultue Affection) public awareness programme which are now being broadcast across the country. The support of our health workers ASHAs in creating awareness in the remote corners of the country in this regard has been truly remarkable.
Meanwhile, breastfeeding initiation within an hour after birth has almost doubled in India, increasing from 23.1% in 2005 to 41.5% in 2015. Early initiation rates are significantly lower among newborns delivered by caesarean section.