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On the 15th anniversary World Breastfeeding Week, 1-7 August, UNICEF says initiating breastfeeding within one hour of birth could greatly reduce neonatal deaths

UNICEF / South Africa / Pirozzi
© UNICEF / South Africa / Pirozzi
Exclusive breastfeeding, if initiated within the first hour of birth and continued for 6 months, could significantly reduce diseases and death in infants.

August 2007 - Breastfeeding every baby from the first hour of life could prevent a significant number of neonatal deaths in developing countries, UNICEF said today, at the start of World Breastfeeding Week.  In South Africa, where two thirds of neonatal deaths are due to low birth weight, keeping babies warm and initiating them early on exclusive breastfeeding could save many of these young lives.   In South Africa’s mortality profile, children under five have the highest mortality of any age group.

Poor infant feeding practices have been shown to compromise children’s chances to survive, especially during the first months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding, if initiated within the first hour of birth and continued for 6 months, could significantly reduce diseases and death in infants.
 
Although the South African Infant and Young Child feeding guidelines reaffirm the importance of promoting breastfeeding in accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals, less than one in twenty South African children is exclusively breastfed at 6 months of age.

Additionally, with about 300 000 HIV positive pregnant women giving birth every year in the country, poor feeding practices such as mixing breast milk with other fluids or foods increase the risk of babies acquiring HIV from their infected mothers.  UNICEF says this could wipe out the gains being from programmes to prevent mother to child transmission (PMTCT). 

Continued breastfeeding after six months, for up to two years of age or beyond, combined with safe and appropriate complementary feeding, is essential to achieve a better nutritional status in young children. But significant challenges remain, including poverty, the health status of the mother and her knowledge of optimal infant feeding.

World Breastfeeding Week was first celebrated in 1992 and is now observed in over 120 countries by UNICEF, governments and their partners, including the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and the World Health Organization. Its aim is to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life which yields tremendous health benefits, providing critical nutrients, protection from deadly diseases such as pneumonia and fostering growth and development in the young child.

This year’s theme is breastfeeding within one hour of birth, a strategy that has proven to reduce neonatal deaths in many developing countries.

Also see World Breastfeeding Week Communication package by UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre

 

 

 

 

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