The report notes that newborns who breastfeed in the first hour of life are significantly more likely to survive. Even a delay of a few hours after birth could pose life-threatening consequences. Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulate the mother’s production of breastmilk, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.

“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 H. 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.”

Breastfeeding rates within the first hour after birth are highest in Eastern and Southern Africa (65%) and lowest in East Asia and the Pacific (32%), the report says. Nearly 9 in 10 babies born in Burundi, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu are breastfed within the first hour. By contrast, only two in 10 babies born in Azerbaijan, Chad and Montenegro do so.*

“Breastfeeding gives children the best possible start in life,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “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.”

Earlier studies, cited in the report, show that newborns who began breastfeeding between two and 23 hours after birth had a 33% greater risk of dying compared with those who began breastfeeding within one hour of birth. Among newborns who started breastfeeding a day or more after birth, the risk was more than twice as high.

According to this report, Viet Nam is among the countries with largest reduction in prevalence of early imitation of breastfeeding between 2005 and 2013. The rate of early initiation of breastfeeding in Viet Nam decreased from 44 per cent in 2006 to 27 per cent in 2013.

Recognizing the worsen trend, since 2014, the Government of Viet Nam has made an effort to improve the situation, including the issuance and implementation of National Guideline on Early Essential Newborn Care and Hospital Quality Standard regarding breastfeeding practice right after birth, with technical support from WHO and UNICEF. The guidelines emphasize skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth and support for the initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. Training have been provided for health staff and monitoring activities has been carried out in the whole country to ensure the effective implementation of the national guideline.

Significant improvement has been shown in reversing of the trend of early initiation of breast feeding. According to the Second Biennial Progress report of Western Pacific Region on Early Essential Newborn Care 2016-2017, 73 per cent of babies received early initiation of breast feeding within one hour of birth in Viet Nam. The initial achievement has been recognized by WHO and UNICEF at the Regional Meeting on Accelerating Progress in Early Essential Newborn Care organized in August 2017.

WHO and UNICEF urge all stakeholders in Viet Nam including policy makers, health staff, parents, caregivers to continue the efforts and to take strong action to ensure that babies are breastfed within the first hour after birth and exclusively breast fed for the first six months.

The WHO and UNICEF-led Global Breastfeeding Collective also released the 2018 Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which tracks progress for breastfeeding policies and programmes. In it, they encourage countries to advance policies and programmes that help all mothers to start breastfeeding in the first hour of their child’s life and to continue as long as they want./.

Khac Kien