Over the next few weeks, you will see a number of posts from me regarding Save The Children’s ‘No Child Born to Die’ campaign. This phase of the campaign is focusing on breastfeeding, access to health professionals and the marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
Today, Save The Children has released their report: Superfood for Babies, How overcoming barriers to breastfeeding will save children’s lives. The report makes very interesting reading and I will discuss the points raised in the weeks and days to come but this post is summarising the basics discussed in the report and the idea of ‘The Power of The First Hour’.
As I peer support in my local Baby Friendly Hospital, I am already aware of this #firsthour and it’s importance. Mum and baby should enjoy skin to skin immediately after birth, or as soon as possible depending on the situation, and also initiate feeding within this #firsthour. Just being able to feed in the #firsthour after birth sets your breastfeeding journey off to a good start and as this report shows, increases breastfeeding initiation rates across the board. We know how important breastfeeding is in the western world but it is even more critical in countries where formula feeding is unsustainable and extremely difficult to do safely…
SUPERFOOD FOR THE FIRST HOUR
Breast milk is superfood for babies. It’s a mum’s powerful, natural antidote to hunger and disease.
The very first feed in the first hour of life is the most important of all. For the first few days, Mum is producing colostrum – a highly-nutritious substance full of vital antibodies that strengthen a baby’s immune system. It’s effectively a child’s first vaccination – and it’s often the difference between life and death.
Almost a quarter – 22% – of babies who die in their first month could be saved if they started breastfeeding in the first hour of life. That’s the power of the first hour.
By breastfeeding straight away a mother gives herself and her baby the best possible chance of sustaining breastfeeding for her baby’s first six months of life – which makes a massive difference to a child’s chance of survival and long-term health.
If all babies were breastfed within the first hour of life, 830,000 children’s lives would be saved every year.
THE CHALLENGE WE FACE AND HOW WE CAN MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN
The first hour of life is certainly the most crucial, yet millions of children born this year won’t get immediate, life-saving care:
- One out of every three births take place without a midwife present.
- 57% of babies don’t get that vital breastfeed in the first hour.
It doesn’t have to be this way. When it comes to saving children’s lives, we’ve already proved that dramatic change is possible. In 2011 we saw the biggest ever fall in child mortality – a drop of 700,000 in a single year. That wasn’t a one-off. Since 1990, the number of children dying every year has come down by 5 million.
This progress has brought us to a pivotal moment in history. We could be the first generation to make sure no child dies from diarrhoea or pneumonia; that no child starves to death or faces a life sentence of hunger.
That’s why we launched No Child Born to Die – our most ambitious campaign ever. Our aim: to stop children dying needlessly, once and for all.
We’ve already made some major breakthroughs. We inspired huge extra investment in vaccines, health workers and family planning that will save millions of children’s lives.
But the fate of too many children is still decided in their critical first hour of life – 60 minutes when something as simple as a blanket, clean razor to cut the umbilical cord or a dose of antibiotics can be the difference between life and death.
And we know that breastfeeding in the first hour is a vital part of saving newborn lives.
Breast milk is healthy and it’s free. So why aren’t more babies getting the benefits?
BREAST IS BEST
It’s not that mums in poor countries don’t want to breastfeed. It’s just that many of them simply don’t know it protects their babies. Like mums in the UK, they get conflicting messages about breastfeeding. Or they have no control over whether they breastfeed. Or no one is there to help them.
Of course, many mums here find breastfeeding tough. But at least they can access the knowledge and support they need to give their baby the best chance possible. That’s why nearly 81% of mums in the UK breastfeed their babies in the first 24 hours of life.
That compares with just 20% of mothers in Burkina Faso or Cameroon. The fact is, all across the developing world – where breastfeeding is more a matter of life and death – breastfeeding rates have remained less than 40% for the last 20 years.
A tragic combination of factors conspire to undermine women’s choices about breastfeeding their babies:
- A massive shortage of midwives – 350,000 worldwide – means many women are deprived of the support and advice all mums so desperately need when they’ve just had a baby.
- Cultural factors play a part too. Without a health worker to give them accurate advice, some women are told that colostrum is actually bad for their babies. They often end up giving their babies sugar water, herbal tea or butter as the first feed.
“The tradition in our villages is that newborn babies must not be fed breast milk for the first three days of their lives. They are to be fed goat or cow’s milk instead. The mother takes a bath on the fourth day and is cleansed. That’s when she can begin breastfeeding her infant.”
Fazla Bibi, Pakistan
- The marketing tactics and lobbying of some multinational breastmilk substitute companies, which can leave mums confused and lead to misunderstandings about the benefits of formula. We have evidence of certain manufacturers making potentially misleading advertising claims, giving health workers perks like free trips in return for recommending their formula to mums and even going into hospitals to promote their products directly to mums.
It’s devastating that something so simple and crucial is still not happening. No child is born to die because they don’t get the basic nourishment they need.
***summary provided by Save The Children UK***
We need to take action today and you can help by donating cash and/or your time…
It only takes a few minutes to send a tweet using the hashtag #firsthour or share this blog post with your friends.
Sign the petition to urge Nestle and Danone to STOP putting profit before babies lives
UK celebrity Myleene Klass weeps as she hugs Vilma, 20, while Vilma breastfeeds her youngest child, Alderico (10 months), in their one room home in an urban slum in ParanaqueCity, Metro Manila, The Philippines on 18 January 2013. Vilma had raised her first 3 children on formula and had to cut down on food for her family to afford it. Both John Ashley, 4, and Justin, 3, are malnourished and stunted, and after losing one of her children, she now breastfeeds her youngest, Alderico. Myleene Klass visted the Philippines, the homeland of her mother, with Save the Children to learn more about the importance of breastfeeding. In a new report, Superfood for Babies, the charity says that if babies receive Colostrum – the mother’s first milk – within an hour of birth, it will kick start the child’s immune system, making them three times more likely to survive. And, if the mother continues feeding for the next six months, then a child growing up in the developing world is up to 15 times less likely to die from killer diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Find out more on how breastfeeding could help save 95 tiny lives EVERY hour and you can help achieve this by supporting Save The Children in any way you can.
Fellow Bloggers are also raising awareness for this crucial campaign…
- Formula milk firms accused of targeting mothers and health workers with gifts (guardian.co.uk)
- Newborns ‘at risk’ from milk formula (smh.com.au)