Breastfeeding right after birth could save babies’ lives, UN says

An estimated 78 million newborns are at a higher risk of death each year because they do not get to drink their mother’s milk within in the first hours of being born, according to the United Nations.
Only two out of five babies are breastfed immediately after being born, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund(UNICEF) said Monday in a study that included 76 low and middle-income countries.
“When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything.In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
The UN agencies urged governments to provide better support to mothers and health workers after birth, and to restrict the marketing of infant formula that is used as a substitute for milk.
Skin contact between the mother and her child stimulates the production of milk, which is especially rich in nutrients and in protective antibodies right after birth.
Earlier studies showed that delaying breastfeeding between two and 23hours increases the risk of death by 33 per cent.
While instant breastfeeding is very common in Eastern and Southern Africa, less than a third of newborns in East Asia and the Pacific get to drink their mother’s milk quickly.
The study cited several reasons why many babies are not breastfed,including the practice of throwing away the mother’s first milk, and feeding newborns sugar water or infant formula.
Rising numbers of Caesarean sections have also led to a decrease in breastfeeding, according to WHO and UNICEF. — dpa