Early Initiation of Breastfeeding Saves Lives
Optimal breastfeeding practices, including exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life has previously been shown to improve child survival.
Studies led by our researchers and others have demonstrated the importance of the timing of breastfeeding initiation for newborns. When mothers start breastfeeding their babies in the first hour or first day of life, survival through the first month of life is increased.
- Research: A meta-analysis of these studies in 2013 demonstrated that risks of mortality were substantially reduced when babies were breastfed early, and early initiation helped establish better long-term feeding patterns.
- Policy: The WHO recommends that all mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
- Practice: Neonatal health programs now routinely include an emphasis on immediate breastfeeding, often in combination with improved thermal practices (such as skin-to-skin contact), and early initiation of breastfeeding is now included in country-level indicators for neonatal health.
- Impact: Our studies have indicated that universal coverage of early breastfeeding could reduce neonatal mortality by 7% to 16%, depending on a country’s current coverage levels.