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Updated On: Sunday, 22 September 2019

UNICEF-WHO Report on Breast Feeding

Content by: South-South News

1 August 2018, New York, USA | South-South News — A new joint UNICEF – WHO report indicates that newborns who are put to their mother’s breast within the first hour of life are more likely to survive, while those left waiting face life-threatening consequences.

The report, titled “Capture the Moment,” shows that that three in five babies are not breastfed in the first hour of life. That’s around 78 million newborns that miss out, putting them at higher risk of death and disease and making them less likely to continue breastfeeding.

Maaike Arts, a Nutritionist Specialist with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said,“It is important to start breastfeeding in the first hour of life because it helps to start breastfeeding correctly and it also helps prevent babies from dying in the first month of life and it helps protect them against certain diseases.”

Too many newborns are left waiting too long to breastfeed within the first hour of life for different reasons such as 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.

Breastfeeding rates within the first hour after birth are highest in Eastern and Southern Africa (65 percent) and lowest in East Asia and the Pacific (32 percent), 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.

“It all depends on the support that mothers receive in the first hour after birth,” said Arts, “It depends on the society, if there are social norms to support breastfeeding in the first hour, and it also depends to a large extent on the support that she and the baby receive from the birth attendant. And what we are seeing is that unfortunately, even by skilled birth attendants, or for hospitals and other facilities, we see that that support is not there. Sometimes other foods or liquids are given, sometimes the baby and mother are separated from each other, and sometimes there are interventions that are not necessary and that then inhibit the start of breastfeeding in the first hour.”

The report 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, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.

Common practices, such as discarding colostrum, an elder feeding the baby honey or health professionals giving the newborn a specific liquid, such as sugar water or infant formula, delay a newborn’s first critical contact with his or her mother.

“Breastfeeding is best for babies all over the world. It is the best gift that mothers can give to their newborns and to their babies. Families who want to look at other options need to have access to unbiased information and they need to be supportive to provide these alternatives in a safe manner,” Arts said.

The report notes that early initiation rates are significantly lower among newborns delivered by caesarean section. For example, in Egypt, only 19 percent of babies born by C-section were breastfed in the first hour after birth, compared to 39 percent of babies born by natural delivery. In the Dominican Republic, 40 percent of babies born by C-section breastfed in the first hour after birth, compared to 61 percent of babies born by natural delivery.

Arts noted, “To one extent we see that a lot of cesarean sections are not necessary for medical reasons, so they are either too little, too late, or too much, too soon, that is a trend that needs to be reversed, but also if a cesarean section happens, then the staff that performs a cesarean section needs to be trained in how to support the mother and baby to breastfeed. Because it is possible to do early initiation of breastfeeding after a cesarean section.”

The report urges governments, donors and other decision-makers to adopt strong legal measures to restrict the marketing of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes.

“Breastfeeding is the foundation of life and we should all do more to support mothers and babies to breastfeed in the first hour of life and beyond that, every day, not only during world breastfeeding week,” said Arts.

World Breastfeeding Week is held every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 120 countries.

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