Over half of all newborn babies are not breastfed within an hour of life and this puts them at a heightened risk for disease and ill health.
The United Nations Children’s Agency brought this to the public’s consciousness on Friday, highlighting sub-Saharan Africa as a specific area of concern.
Accordingly, UNICEF educated that feeding a baby within an hour of life passes on critical nutrients, antibodies and skin contact with their mothers that can eventually protect them from diseases.
When breastfeeding is delayed past an hour of birth and begins stretching to two, even reaching 23 hours, the baby’s chance of dying in its first month increases by 40 percent and delaying by 24 hours and above, increases the risk of death to 80 percent, UNICEF said.
In keeping with this information, studies have shown that newborns account for nearly half of all deaths of children under age 5.
UNICEF has been focused on various campaigns to promote early breastfeeding; estimating that 77 million babies around the world each year are not breastfed within the first hour of life. This is out of the estimate that puts the number of babies born each year at about 130 million babies.
France B’gin, the UNICEF senior nutrition adviser, said in a statement;
“Breast milk is a baby’s first vaccine, the first and best protection they have against illness and disease,”
“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.”
Talking about sub-Saharan Africa, UNICEF said that effort to promote early breastfeeding has been slow. They mention as one of the obstacles the fact that doctors, nurses and midwives assisting births in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia are less likely to promote early breastfeeding than are unskilled attendants or relatives assisting.
While also noting that in some countries, it is customary to feed a baby infant formula, cow’s milk or sugar water in its first three days, UNICEF said that if all babies were fed nothing but breast milk from birth to six months, more than 800,000 lives could be saved each year.
Some other figures which the group released ahead of the World Breastfeeding Week running from August 1 to August 7 in more than 170 nations, was that around the world, 43 percent of infants less than 6 months old are fed breast milk exclusively and those who are not breastfed at all are 14 times more likely to die than those fed only breast milk.