The importance of breastfeeding within the first hours of birth

Mom breastfeeding baby
Mom breastfeeding baby. RomanovaAnn/

As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, a new study has found that not breastfeeding your baby within the first hour of birth can put their life at risk.

According to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is crucial for mothers to breastfeed their babies within the first hour of birth to avoid putting their health at risk.

“When breastfeeding is delayed after birth, the consequences can be life-threatening – and the longer newborns are left waiting, the greater the risk,” states the report.

“When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything. In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death. Yet each year, millions of newborns miss out on the benefits of early breastfeeding and the reasons – all too often – are things we can change,” Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director told WHO.

Although not all moms can breastfeed, some give up because of the frustration that comes with breastfeeding such as when the experience is painful, the baby can’t latch, or the mother is not producing milk.

Fore, however, says “mothers simply don’t receive enough support to breastfeed within those crucial minutes after birth, even from medical personnel at health facilities.”

With support and encouragement, some of the challenges can be addressed.

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Benefits of breastfeeding
There are many benefits of breastmilk. One of the most crucial is that it contains nutrients and antibodies that help babies fight off viruses and bacteria.

Breast milk has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat and it lowers your baby’s risk of developing asthma or allergies, states Webmed.

“The incidences of pneumonia, colds, and viruses are reduced among breastfed babies,” Ruth A. Lawrence, author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, told

Suckling at the breast and having skin-to-skin contact also stimulates the mother’s production of breastmilk, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies, states WHO report.

It is recommended that children are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life before they can be introduced to solids.

Disclaimer: Although breastfeeding has many great benefits, we believe moms should not feel pressurised into doing it.

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