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UNICEF: Why Breastfeeding Within Hour of Birth is Important

Aug 01, 2016 08:05 AM EDT
UNICEF urges mothers to breastfeed their newborns within an hour after they were born as part of the celebration of World Breastfeeding Week 2016.
(Photo : Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

In line with the 2016 celebration of the World Breastfeeding Week, the United Nations Children's Fund has recommended that mothers should breastfeed their children within an hour after birth to provide the newborns with essential nutrients and antibodies, preventing the risk of death.

According to the report from UNICEF, about 77 million newborns, or 1 in 2 babies born, in the world were not breastfed within an hour after their birth. The agency warned that delaying the breast feeding of a newborn by 2 to 23 hours after birth will increase the risk of dying in the first 28 days of life by 40 percent. Also, delaying the breastfeeding by 24 hours or more increases the risk of death by 80 percent.

"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 France Bégin, UNICEF Senior Nutrition Adviser, in a statement. "If all babies are fed nothing but breast milk from the moment they are born until they are six months old, over 800,000 lives would be saved every year."

Breast milk is known to be the baby's first vaccine that helps protect newborns from diseases and illnesses. Aside from providing essential nutrients and antibodies, breast feeding promotes skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the child.

Huffington Post reported that the early breastfeeding rates in East and Southern Africa has increased to 60 percent in 2015 from 51 percent in 2000, while the rates in West and Central Africa were unchanged. On the other hand, the rates of early breast feeding in South Asia has tripled from 2000 but 21 million newborns a year are not breastfed within the first hour.

The celebration for the World Breastfeeding Week will run from August 1 to August 7 in more than 170 countries. The event is being done every year in order to promote breastfeeding and infant nutrition.

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