Leading practitioners have urged mothers to breastfeed within the first hour of giving birth.
In a series of new international guidelines released today, global health experts have said that breastfeeding within the first 60 minutes of giving birth could save a child’s life.
The World Health Organisation and UNICEF say that breastfeeding within the first hour could stop a child from developing life-threatening infections.
Early breastfeeding boosts a baby’s immune system from the start, which will provide lifelong benefits for the baby.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, has said: ‘Breastfeeding gives children the best possible start in life.
‘We must urgently scale up support to mothers – be it from family members, health care workers, employers and governments – so they can give their children the start they deserve.’
Research published today estimates that three in five babies are not breastfed within this time frame.
The report also stated that those first breastfed between two and 23 hours after birth face a 30 per cent higher risk of death within their first 28 days than those breastfed within the first hour after birth.
Around a fifth of babies in the UK are not given breast milk within the first hour, with babies born by Caesarean less likely to be offered breast milk within that period.
Worldwide, this means around 78 million babies could have their chance of surviving diminished because they are not receiving breast milk quickly enough.
The official guidelines also states that babies should be nourished with breast milk only until they are six months old.
UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore also added: ‘When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything. In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death.
‘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.’