The World Health Organisation, WHO has said breastfeeding a new born baby within an hour after birth is indeed critical for saving their lives.
The organisation also estimated that about 78 million babies or three in five are not breastfed within the first hour of life, putting them at higher risk of death and disease and making them less likely to continue breastfeeding.
In a report by UNICEF and WHO, most of these babies are born in low- and middle-income countries.
The report notes that new-borns 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, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.
Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director said ‘’When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything. In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death.
“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 rates within the first hour after birth are highest in Eastern and Southern Africa (65%) and lowest in East Asia and the Pacific (32%), the report says. Nearly 9 in 10 babies born in Burundi, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu are breastfed within the first hour. By contrast, only two in 10 babies born in Azerbaijan, Chad and Montenegro do so.”
The WHO and UNICEF-led Global Breastfeeding Collective also released the 2018 Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which tracks progress for breastfeeding policies and programmes.
In it, they encourage countries to advance policies and programmes that help all mothers to start breastfeeding in the first hour of their child’s life and to continue as long as they want.