Almost 60 percent of newborns around the world are not breastfed fast enough after birth, which put them at greater risk of sickness and even death. Yet, according to the current guidelines from the World Health Organization and Unicef, infants should be breastfed within an hour of their birth and fed exclusively so for the first six months.
Both babies and mothers benefit hugely from breastfeeding: on one hand it diminishes the risk of breast cancer in mothers; on the other hand, breast milk provides important antibodies and nutrients to the babies, while lowering their risk of future obesity; thanks to this skin-to-skin contact, infants will even get microbes useful for the good development of their immune system.
“When breastfeeding is delayed after birth, the consequences can be life-threatening – and the longer newborns are left waiting, the greater the risk,” wrote the authors of the WHO and Unicef report. Babies breastfed for the first time after 24 hours have twice the risk of death of those being breastfed within the first hour.
Even if some women are sometimes unable to breastfeed, most of them can do it if given adequate support. In the United Kingdom, for example, 90% of mothers give up on breastfeeding before they want to; however, research has shown that a lack of support is a factor explaining this situation.
Newborn Boy Sleeping (Public Domain Pictures)