Breastfeeding within an hour of C-section delivery

A unique hospital initiative by the Government of Telangana and UNICEF is turning out to be a game changer in breastfeeding for C-section mothers

new mother and baby
UNICEF/2022/Aakansha Saxena
08 August 2022

HYDERABAD, India - "Congratulations, we did it- it's a green stamp!" exults the nurse attending proud new mother, Usha Rani, at the King Koti District Hospital in Hyderabad. As per the process, Usha's hospital file was stamped green, indicating that her baby was breastfed within an hour of delivery. 

 It was Usha's first delivery, and she had a Caesarean section due to complications. But this did not prevent her from breastfeeding her child within the first golden hour of birth, thanks to a unique hospital initiative that is a game-changer in maternal care practice.

While WHO recommends initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of birth to secure the best start in life for the newborn, C-section mothers usually have to wait longer to do so. And when breastfeeding is delayed, the consequences can be life-threatening, and the longer newborns are left waiting for more significant the risk. 

To foster an environment where every newborn gets the best start, UNICEF and the Commissionerate of Health and Family Welfare, the Government of Telangana, consulted maternal care experts at the King Koti District Hospital to implement a system of early initiation of breastfeeding for both normal and C-section deliveries. 

It came to light that the labour room staff follows the breast crawl and skin-to-skin contact for normal deliveries immediately after delivery. Still, in the case of women who delivered by C-section, the baby would be kept on wait for its feed until the mother was shifted to the post-natal ward – a wait of around two critical hours or more.

A simple question that turned into an intervention solved this challenge: can breastfeeding be initiated in the operation theatre itself? Dr Jalaja, Civil Surgeon Specialist, HOD, OBGYN of the King Koti Hospital, agreed to assign a team of obstetricians, gynaecologists, paediatricians, and nurses to test the idea the very next day in the operation theatre.

Trained staff nurse assisting a mother in breastfeeding
UNICEF/2022/Aakansha Saxena
Trained staff nurse assisting a mother in breastfeeding at the King Koti Hospital in Southern Indian state of Telangana

The trained staff nurses from the hospital assisted the C-section delivered mother in feeding the baby inside the operation theatre within one hour of birth. 

"This is an easy practice. It doesn't need any support from technology. It's a different way of thinking that has helped strengthen the bonding between mothers and their newborns. We are elated that it could be possible with the support of our colleagues and health experts," said Dr Jalaja.

Usha Rani, the first mother to breastfeed her baby in the King Koti Hospital operation theatre, couldn't help but smile while feeling the ache in her fresh stitches.

"After my operation, I was hardly conscious, but something wonderful happened, and I rejoiced through the pain. I did not expect to be so close to the baby immediately after a C-section," says Usha

"The nurses helped me breastfeed the baby shortly after the delivery. It was a beautiful experience," she adds.

Many other interventions like this are brought to life every day by maternal and newborn care experts to provide the best care for every child and mother.

 As a logical next step towards promoting early breastfeeding, the Government of Telangana, Indian Academy of Pediatrics, Niloufer Hospital and UNICEF have collaborated with the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) to sensitise, train and certify select health facilities with BPNI Accreditation as 'Baby Friendly Hospitals'. 

The mother and child's bond is inseparable, which can be strengthened more by bringing together healthcare experts, government, and partners to their aid.