Not breastfeeding a baby could have serious consequences for their health, according to a new report.
In a new joint report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef, both organizations recommend breastfeeding a baby within the first hour of birth and warn about the dangers of failing to do so.
There are plenty of benefits to new moms from breastfeeding, including a greater emotional bond with the child and a reduced risk of breast cancer in the future, but there are also tons of benefits for the baby. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of the baby developing obesity later in life, and breast milk contains antibodies that help build a child’s immune system.
However, breast milk produced in the first hour after birth is special. It contains essential nutrients and a host of antibodies from the mother that is described as “baby’s first vaccination.” Those antibodies can greatly protect a baby from becoming ill, especially within the first month of life.
“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 new report. “Improving breastfeeding practices could save the lives of more than 800,000 children under five every year, the vast majority of whom are under six months of age.”
The Unicef/WHO report cited earlier studies that showed that infants that were breastfed within 2 to 23 hours of being born were 30% more likely to die within the first 28 days of life. That number jumped to 60% if the baby wasn’t breastfed until 24 hours after birth.
It should be noted that the report cites data from 76 nations, but none of them are in North America, Western Europe, Australia, or New Zealand. This will naturally skew the infant mortality rate as the countries examined do not have nearly as advanced medical services as those found in North America or Europe.
All the same, the report emphasized the importance of breastfeeding regardless of what country you live in and called upon medical professionals to support and encourage new mothers to breastfeed as early as possible. The authors also encouraged breastfeeding to continue for the first 6 months of a baby’s life to ensure proper nutrition and immunization has occurred.
What do you think of these findings? Did you see additional benefits from breastfeeding quickly after birth? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!