WORLD BREASTFEEDING WEEK: WHO Lists Dangers of Delayed Breastfeeding

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-Says 3 in 5 Babies Not Breastfed in the First Hour of Life

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorates the 2018 World Breastfeeding Week, an awareness campaign annually celebrated throughout the first week of August, new reasons for Nigeria’s ranking among countries with the highest rate of infant mortality are unfolding, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified delay in breastfeeding for the first hour of birth as one of the causes of infants death in low- and middle -income countries.

The WHO and UNICEF report which revealed that  an estimated 78 million babies, or three in five infants are not breastfed within the first hour of life, said this put these newborns at higher risk of death and disease,  making them less likely to continue breastfeeding.

An African woman, initiating first hour breastfeeding with her baby.

The new statement, released from New York/Geneva, described the paramount role of first hour postpartum breastfeeding for newly born as well as the grievous dangers of its negligence in the life of babies.

“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 stimulates the mother’s production of breast milk, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies”, the statement disclosed.

“When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything. In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death,” says Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “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. Mothers simply don’t receive enough support to breastfeed within those crucial minutes after birth, even from medical personnel at health facilities.”

In the words of the WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Breastfeeding gives children the best possible start in life. We must urgently scale up support to mothers – be it from family members, healthcare workers, employers and governments, so they can give their children the start they deserve.”

Although the last UNICEF global report ranked Nigeria as the 11th highest on newborn deaths, recent analysis on first hour breastfeeding compliance revealed  highest compliance in Eastern and Southern Africa (65%) and lowest in East Asia and the Pacific (32%), with Sub-Saharan Africa not mentioned among countries with highest compliance rates.

“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”, statement disclosed.

Other reasons for delayed breastfeeding

Other reasons for keeping too many babies waiting too long beyond the first hour of delivery were listed by an analysis of 76 countries conducted by Capture the Moment.

They include:

Feeding newborns food or drinks, including formula: 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.

The rise in elective C-sections: In Egypt, caesarean section rates more than doubled between 2005 and 2014, increasing from 20% to 52%. During the same period, rates of early initiation of breastfeeding decreased from 40% to 27%.

Gaps in the quality of care provided to mothers and newborns:  In many cases, babies are separated from their mothers’ immediately after birth and guidance from health workers is limited. And this has been highly decried by experts.

Going forward, the report urged governments, donors and other policy makers to adopt strong legal measures to restrict the marketing of infant formula and other breast milk substitutes, which discourage the act of initial breastfeeding.

 

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