A warning has been issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund of UNICEF regarding 77 million of newborns being deprived of antibodies and essential nutrients due to them not being breastfed during the first hour of being born. This means that 1 in every two newborns experiences an increased risk of dying in the first month after their birth.
UNICEF came forward saying that mothers who delay breastfeeding their newborn by two or 23 hours increases the risk of their child dying by 40% within the first 28 days. The risk of death increases to 80% if breastfeeding is delayed by more than a day!
According to the Senior Nutrition Adviser of UNICEF, France Bégin, in a press release, “Early breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death. 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.”
Research states that a mother’s breast milk is the first vaccine for a newborn. It is the best vaccine for any newborn against disease and illness. Along with nutrients and antibodies, breast feeding provides a child with skin-to-skin contact which helps prevent various diseases. Delaying a mother from breastfeeding their child also plays a role in limiting the mother’s milk supply.
This information was shared by UNICEF in time for the World Breastfeeding Week, an annual celebration held in 170 countries from the 1st to the 7th of August. The week is devoted to celebrating and promoting breastfeeding in order to improve the nutritional intake of newborn infants. The data presented by UNICEF unfortunately showed a decrease in the rate of mothers breastfeeding newborns within the first hour of being born over the past fifteen years.
The situation is quite worse in sub-Saharan Africa where the rates of under-five mortality are the highest in the globe. However, the rates of breastfeeding did increase by 10% since 2000 in Southern and East Africa, but the rate saw no change in Central and West Africa. While in South Asia the rate has grown three times in the same time span. It jumped to 45% in 2015 from just 16% in 2000. But more increment is needed as according to the shared data approximately 21 million newborns aren’t fed in the first 24 hours and thus, making them vulnerable to disease and death.
The data also shared the fact that a lot of women are not being provided with the essential help they need in order to start breastfeeding when they deliver a baby through a doctor or a midwife. The report said that in South Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, women who deliver a child through the help of a skilled doctor are more likely to start breastfeeding in the first hour compared to women who deliver a child through the assistance of unskilled relatives or attendants.
Customs are another thing that delays early breastfeeding. In a lot of areas a newborn is fed other forms of food of liquids. “When babies are given less nutritious alternatives to breastmilk, they breastfeed less often, making it harder for mothers to start and continue breastfeeding. Globally, only 43 per cent of infants under six months old are exclusively breastfed,” said UNICEF.
The report presented grim findings that state that newborns who are not breastfed are 14 times more vulnerable to die when compared to infants who have are breastfed. However, infants who didn’t receive any amount of breast milk in the first 6 months of their life are seven times more vulnerable to die due to infections when compared to infants who have at least consumed some amount of breast milk during the early months of their life.
UNICEF’s efforts to promote early breastfeeding in mothers still continue.