Latest UNICEF report ranks Sri Lanka as No. 01 Country on Early Initiation Of Breastfeeding. Nearly 9 in 10 babies born in Sri Lanka are breastfed within the first hour of life.
The report notes that newborns who breastfeed in the first hour of life are significantly more likely to survive. Even a delay of a few hours after birth could pose life-threatening consequences. Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulate the mother’s production of breastmilk, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.
The report estimates about 78 million babies – or three in five – are not breastfed within the first hour of life, putting them at higher risk of death and disease and making them less likely to continue breastfeeding. Most of these babies are born in low- and middle-income countries.
“When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything. In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death,” says Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “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. Mothers simply don’t receive enough support to breastfeed within those crucial minutes after birth, even from medical personnel at health facilities.”
Breastfeeding rates within the first hour after birth are highest in Eastern and Southern Africa (65%) and lowest in East Asia and the Pacific (32%), the report says. Nearly 9 in 10 babies born in Burundi, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu are breastfed within the first hour. By contrast, only two in 10 babies born in Azerbaijan, Chad and Montenegro do so.
Analyzed data from 76 countries found that despite the importance of early initiation of breastfeeding, too many newborns are left waiting too long for different reasons,
Feeding newborns food or drinks,
An elder feeding the baby honey or health professionals giving the newborn a specific liquid, such as sugar water or infant formula.
Earlier studies, cited in the report, show that newborns who began breastfeeding between two and 23 hours after birth had a 33% greater risk of dying compared with those who began breastfeeding within one hour of birth. Among newborns who started breastfeeding a day or more after birth, the risk was more than twice as high.