UNICEF research has revealed that the longer breastfeeding is delayed, the higher the risk of infant death within the first month of life.
According to the study, which was released in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week 2016 (1-7 August), 77 million babies worldwide are not breastfed within the first hour of birth.
UNICEF Senior Nutrition Advisor, France Bégin, said: “Making babies wait too long for the first critical contact with their mother outside the womb decreases the newborn’s chances of survival, limits milk supply and reduces the chances of exclusive breastfeeding.
“If all babies are fed nothing but breastmilk, from the moment they are born until they are six months old, over 800,000 lives would be saved every year.”
The study suggests that delaying breastfeeding by 2-23 hours after birth increases the risk of death within the first 28 days of life by 40%. The study also said the risk of death increases to 80% if breastfeeding is delayed by more than 24 hours.
“Breastmilk is a baby’s first vaccine, the first and best protection they have against illness and disease.
“With newborns accounting for nearly half of all deaths of children under five, early breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death,” France Bégin added.
Worldwide, only 43% of infants under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed.
Keep up to date with the latest research and news from MIDIRS by subscribing to our quarterly academic journal. Subscribe to MIDIRS Midwifery Digest