Breastfeeding in first hour of life ‘critical for saving newborn lives’

Breastfeeding in first hour of life 'critical for saving newborn lives'

The study, released by UNICEF and WHO, also acknowledges it is “no easy feat” and new mums require support and guidance.

Breastfeeding in first hour of life 'critical for saving newborn lives'

Just in time for the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF and WHO have released a report which analyses the benefits of breastfeeding newborn babies in the first hour after birth.

UNICEF reports that breastfeeding within the first hour after birth is “critical for saving newborn lives”, but as many as three in five (roughly 78 million) babies worldwide are not given the opportunity.

“Greater risk of dying”

The analysis of five studies from four countries revealed those newborns who began breastfeeding from two to 23 hours after birth “had a 33 percent greater risk of dying compared with those who began breastfeeding within one hour of birth.”

In Tanzania, for example, by delaying breastfeeding by more than one hour, babies were at an increased risk of cough and breathing difficulties in their first six months of life. Putting babies to the breast also initiates skin-to-skin contact which helps the babies to regulate their body temperature and exposes them to the beneficial bacteria present on their mother’s skin. These ‘good’ bacteria helps build babies’ immune systems and provide protection from infectious diseases.

The benefits don’t stop at just the baby. By breastfeeding within the first hour after giving birth, mothers can benefit from their baby suckling at the breast. This triggers the release of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates milk production.

Studies have also shown breastfeeding within the first hour of life can extend the duration of breastfeeding, which is beneficial to both mother and baby.

Image: iStock.

That first hour is so important. Image: iStock.

Benefits of breastfeeding

According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, breast milk is baby’s complete food from birth to six months.

Other benefits include:

  • It satisfies both hunger and thirst; extra water is not needed
  • It increases a baby’s resistance to infection and disease
  • Breastfeeding is important for mothers too.

Benefits to the mother are:

  • It’s convenient, cheap and always there when you need it
  • It’s always fresh, clean and safe
  • It quickly soothes a fussy, unhappy baby
  • It helps your uterus return to its normal size after childbirth
  • It gives you a chance to sit down during the day and rest
  • Mothers who don’t breastfeed have increased risks of cancer of the breast and ovaries
  • Breastfeeding helps create a close and loving bond between you and your baby and can be a deeply satisfying experience for you both.

The report does acknowledge that “initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of life is no easy feat,” and says that new mums require support and guidance on correct positioning  and feeding of their newborn babies.