Delayed breastfeeding a risk to newborn's life

By Vicky Wandawa

"Breast milk is a baby's first vaccine, the first and best protection they have against illness and disease."

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 World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated annually from August 1-7 in over 170 countries to promote breastfeeding and improve infant nutrition around the world.

Putting the baby on the breast immediately after birth provides the best start for the baby and saves life. The thick yellowish milk, also known as colostrum, is very healthy and helps protect the baby from illness, according to a press release from UNICEF.

Unfortunately, some 77 million newborns - or one in two - are not put to the breast within an hour of birth, depriving them of the essential nutrients, antibodies and skin-to-skin contact with their mother that protect them from disease and death.

"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.

"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."

In Uganda, the Demographic Health Survey indicates that 27 newborns die in the first 28 days, 20 die in the first week and 13 lose their lives in the first 24 hours.

"Breast milk is a baby's first vaccine, the first and best protection they have against illness and disease," said France Bégin.

"With newborns accounting for nearly half of all deaths of children under five, early breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death," says Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi, Communications Specialist at UNICEF Uganda.

Globally, only 43 per cent of infants under six months old are exclusively breastfed. Babies who are not breastfed at all are 14 times more likely to die than those who are fed only breast milk.

But any amount of breast milk reduces a child's risk of death.