Why is the first hour so important for breastfeeding? I remember learning about the benefits of immune boosting colostrum, the first breast milk that a mother passes to her baby, and about sharing some of my personal immunity to disease and illness with my babies during breastfeeding. In the U.S., our babies are not likely to succumb to many of the diseases and bacterial illnesses present in developing countries--but, our babies still benefit from, at least some, breast milk--especially immediately after birth.
Imagine, however, delivering a newborn in less than sanitary conditions, with little access to qualified healthcare providers and immunizations, in countries where heartbreaking numbers of children die from malnutrition, preventable diseases and bacterial borne illnesses.
Save the Children estimates that 22% of newborn deaths could be prevented by simply beginning breastfeeding during the powerful first hour after birth.
A child breastfed during his first hour of life is three times more likely to survive than a child breastfed for the first time a day after birth.
Save the Children reports that infants who are not breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhea than babies who were breastfed exclusively for their first six months.
Women worldwide face similar, preventable barriers to breastfeeding. Save the Children takes note of the numerous barriers to breastfeeding that women face in their report, Superfood for Babies: How Overcoming Barriers to breastfeeding will save children’s lives. Cultural and religious beliefs prevent many newborns from receiving colostrum and early breast milk. Lack of education, inadequate health care, absent lactation support, and poor legislation are only a few of the barriers making breastfeeding extremely difficult in many areas of the world--even in the United States.
Honestly, 18 years ago, breastfeeding was not the easy, natural experience that I envisioned. I faced difficulties and, at that time, in a rural community, I found little to no lactation support. I struggled throughout my maternity leave to continue breastfeeding--but, gave up when I was faced with the added issues presented by returning to work. 10 years later, I initially dreaded the thoughts of breastfeeding my middle daughter--but, again decided that I needed to try.
Although she was not born in one of the few baby friendly hospitals in the U.S., my second breastfeeding experience was drastically different from my first one! I was encouraged to nurse immediately by trained, supportive hospital staff--and was paired with a lactation consultant within hours. With support, I was able to breastfeed my middle daughter successfully for over 14 months. My third child was breastfed exclusively for about the same amount of time. Even with my third child, after months of breastfeeding experience, I still needed support and was lucky enough to have access to the help that I needed.
Breastfeeding does not always come easily or naturally and mothers need breastfeeding support. In developing nations, breastfeeding a newborn could actually be the difference between life and death for a child. I encourage you to learn more about Save the Children’s report and their #FirstHour initiative .
Sign the Petition. Please consider signing the petition requesting that Secretary of State Kerry renew U.S. commitment to the 1,000 Days Partnership--a critical global nutrition initiative, set up in 2010 and set to expire this June, that helps countries develop nutrition strategies that save children’s lives.
Resources: Facts and statistics were obtained from the Save the Children's Superfood for Babies Report. All photos are copyrighted by Save the Children.
Disclosure: I am a part of the Global Team of 200 and Social Good Moms' 24-Hour Blogathon spreading the word about Save the Children's new breastfeeding report, Superfood for Babies. Please sign the petition urging Secretary Kerry to help mothers around the world get more support around breastfeeding and lifesaving nutrition for their babies.