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World Breastfeeding Week: Less Than 50% Babies Are Breastfed Within An Hour Of Birth

  • IWB Post
  •  August 1, 2018

The world observes World Breastfeeding Week from August 1 to 7 and on the eve of the week, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new report with the analysis of breastfeeding data from 76 countries. 

The report found that despite decades of doctors’ recommendations and the importance and numerous benefits of early initiation of breastfeeding, nearly half of infants are still being deprived of exclusive breastfeeding in India.

Too many newborns are left waiting too long for it for different reasons, including feeding newborns food or drinks, including formula, a rise in elective C-sections and gaps in the quality of care provided to mothers and newborns.

According to the report, only 42% are breastfed within an hour of birth. And, the worst five performers in the country are Uttar Pradesh with 25.4%, Rajasthan with 28.4%, Uttarakhand with 28.8%, Punjab and Delhi with 29.9%. The report also suggests that only 55% are exclusively breastfed for six months.

An estimated 7.8 crore newborns — or three in five — are not breastfed within their first hour of life globally, which lowers their chance of survival, said the report. According to the report, most of these newborns are born in low and middle-income countries, including India.

The report said that even a delay of a few hours after birth could pose life-threatening consequences and children who are not breastfed within one hour of birth have 33 percent higher risk of death.

Breastfeeding rates within the first hour after birth are highest in Eastern and Southern Africa 65 percent and lowest in East Asia and the Pacific with 32 percent, the report stated.

“Breastfeeding gives all girls and boys the healthiest start in life. It stimulates brain development, boosts their immune systems and helps protect them from chronic conditions later in life. It is one of the smartest investments to boost human capital, stimulate economic growth and gives every child the same opportunity to thrive,” said the report, as per Economic Times. 

“We need to support all mothers to initiate breastfeeding early, exclusively breastfeed for the first six months and continue to breastfeed for at least the first two years,” said Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India Country Representative.

In India, however, the breastfeeding initiation within an hour after birth increased from 23.4 percent in 2005 to 41.5 percent in 2015. The global increase during the same period was more modest, from 37 percent to 42 percent.

Poor health of the lactating mother, lack of time to breastfeed (especially in the case of working mothers), dependence on the infant formula for ease, leaving breastfeeding midway due to insufficient milk production, lack of guidance, and breastfeeding considered as a taboo in public are few of the reasons for this.

With adequate breastfeeding and breastfeeding within an hour, 20% of newborn deaths can be prevented. In the first six months, an exclusively breastfed child has 14 times higher chances of survival compared to a non-breastfed child.

Exclusive breastfeeding protects a child against pneumonia, produces antibodies and increases the immunity of the baby.

For mothers,  there is a 28% reduction in breast cancer and 21% in ovarian cancer. And, upto 12% drop in chances of getting Type II diabetes for each year of breastfeeding.

Image used for representational purposes

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