Breastfeeding within one hour of birth could reduce infant mortality
NEW YORK, 1 August 2007 – Breastfeeding every baby immediately after birth could prevent a significant number of neonatal deaths in developing countries, said UNICEF today at the start of World Breastfeeding Week.
A study from Ghana in the journal Pediatrics indicates that 16 per cent of neonatal deaths were prevented by breastfeeding all infants from day one, rising to 22 per cent when breastfeeding began within one hour of birth. Early initiation of breastfeeding is the theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week.
“More than one third of all child deaths occur during the first fragile month of life,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman. “Early breastfeeding can reduce that toll and is a step towards the Millennium Development Goal of a two-thirds reduction in child mortality.”
The issue is particularly relevant to Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. Around 10 per cent of all babies die before the age of one and most neonatal deaths occur at home. Though the rate of exclusive breastfeeding until the age of six months has more than doubled in the region since 1990 – to 30 per cent – this still leaves hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to disease and death.
UNICEF estimates that exclusive breastfeeding to the age of six months could prevent the deaths of 1.3 million children under the age of five in the developing world each year.
It is critical, according to Veneman, to reach women in their homes and communities. UNICEF support for integrated, community-based health care includes the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and the agency works with partners, governments and communities to support national infant-feeding legislation, improve ante- and post-natal care and boost resources for new mothers at the community-level.
World Breastfeeding Week
Breastfeeding Advocacy package
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