Babies should be breastfed within an hour after birth to give them lifelong health benefits
The experts from WHO and Unicef say that breastfeeding your child early can boost the immune system and reduce the chances of developing any life-threatening infection.
Many global health leaders have joined together and said that babies should be breastfed within the first hour after they are born to cut the risk of death and enable them to receive health benefits that will last a lifetime. According to the World Health Organization, waiting just for two hours increases the chances of the newborn child dying by a third while waiting for more than a day doubles the risk of death. The experts say that breastfeeding your child early can boost the immune system and reduce the chances of developing any life-threatening infections that newborns are prone to get.
The report, that was published on July 31 by the WHO and Unicef, has estimated that three in five babies, which is around 78 million around the world, are not being breastfed within the first hour of their birth. The researchers have reviewed many studies that have found that these particular babies have a much higher chance of dying within their first 28 days, the Daily Mail reports. The paper has also admitted, however, that breastfeeding can be difficult and that mothers need "support and guidance" to start doing it successfully.
The WHO director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: "Breastfeeding gives children the best possible start in life. We must urgently scale up support to mothers – be it from family members, health care workers, employers, and governments – so they can give their children the start they deserve."
The authors of the report have said that even though the risks of newborns developing infections are greater in low and middle-income countries, the health benefits of breastfeeding early in all countries across the globe should not be brushed aside. The suckling of a newborn also stimulates the mother to produce milk which includes colostrum, the first form of milk or better known as the baby's "first vaccine", that is rich in nutrients and antibodies.
Researchers have said that giving a newborn breastmilk within an hour after birth has been shown to reduce the levels of cot death and obesity in later years. The action of breastfeeding also has health benefits for mothers as it reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers as well as type 2 diabetes.
The UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world and only a fifth of the babies born in the country are given their mother's milk. This means that many babies are losing out on the health benefits of breastmilk. The report added that these figures compare to an average of only 4% in low-income countries. "This wide gap means that 2.6 million children in high-income countries are missing out completely on the benefits … The early initiation of breastfeeding benefits every newborn – no matter where they live."
Executive Director for Unicef, Henrietta Fore, 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." The professional policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, Clare Livingstone, said: "The evidence on the benefits of breastfeeding is incredibly strong … as this report shows, starting it as soon as possible is incredibly important and can even be life-saving."