As Kiwi mums get ready to lead the global ‘Big Latch On’ this Friday, the World Health Organisation is expressing concern that 3 in 5 babies worldwide are not breastfed in the crucial first hour of life.

World Breastfeeding Week began on August 1 and New Zealand will once again be leading the way in the Global Big Latch On (BLO) with mothers gathering together Friday morning to breastfeed their children in 100 local BLO venues from cafes to marae and libraries to church halls.

This year WHO and UNICEF is marking the week by releasing a report that estimates that 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.

The two organisations are promoting the importance of helping mothers breastfeed their babies within that crucial first hour of life. They say the skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulate the production of breastmilk, including colostrum, which is also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, as it is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.

The Capture the Moment report, which analyses data from 76 countries, shows New Zealand and Australia are amongst the Western developed nations that do not collect data on breastfeeding within the first hour of life.  It also reported that in high income countries 21 per cent of children are never breastfed, compared with only 4 per cent in low- and middle-income countries.  In nearly every country examined early breastfeeding rates were lower among newborns delivered by caesarean section.

Plunket data for 2017 shows that at six weeks old about 63 per cent of Kiwi babies seen by the Well Child  health provider were fully breastfed, 23 per cent partially breastfed and 15 per cent were bottle fed formula only. By six months the percentage no longer being breastfeed had grown to 40 per cent.

The WHO report cited a study across 51 countries that found early initiation rates were significantly lower among newborns delivered by caesarean section and in Egypt, only 19% of babies born by C-section were breastfed in the first hour after birth, compared to 39% of babies born by natural delivery.

“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 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.”

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