UNICEF: Breastfeeding within first hour of birth is the baby’s “first vaccine”

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Waiting too long before breastfeeding your newborn decreases their chances for survival, said the agency

According to a press release released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in time for World Breastfeeding Week, half of the world’s newborns are not breastfed within the first hour of birth. This deprives them of essential nutrients, antibodies, and skin-to-skin contact with their mother that prevents disease and death. Here is why breastfeeding a newborn is essential:

“If all babies are fed nothing but breastmilk from the moment they are born until they are six months old, over 800,000 lives would be saved every year.”

breastfeeding week

Photo: Dreamstime

“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,” said UNICEF Senior Nutrition Adviser France Bégin. “If all babies are fed nothing but breastmilk from the moment they are born until they are six months old, over 800,000 lives would be saved every year.”

Click to the next page to read more about the UNICEF report on breastfeeding.

Some important statistics:

  • Delaying breastfeeding by 2-23 hours after birth increases the risk of dying in the first 28 days of life by 40 per cent.
  • Delaying it by 24 hours or more increases that risk to 80 per cent.
  • Only 43% of infants under six months old are exclusively breastfed.
  • Babies who are not breastfed at all are 14 times more likely to die than those who are fed only breastmilk.
  • ANY amount of breastmilk reduces a child’s risk of death.
  • Babies who received no breastmilk at all are 7 times more likely to die from infections than those who received at least some breastmilk in their first 6 months of life.

“Early breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death.”

breastfeeding week

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Breastmilk is a baby’s first vaccine, the first and best protection they have against illness and disease,” Bégin continued. “With newborns accounting for nearly half of all deaths of children under five, early breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death.”

 

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