While the term “essential newborn care” can be used in a variety of ways, the Healthy Newborn Network uses the term to refer to key routine practices in the care of the newborn, particularly at the time of birth and over the first hours of life, whether in the health facility or at home.


number of children under age 5 who might be saved every year if optimally breastfed


percent of babies who are exclusively breastfed during their first six months of life globally (2014-2020)

All data on this page represents the most recent data available, unless otherwise noted. Please visit our Newborn Numbers page and download the Excel spreadsheet to explore the data further.

More information

Essential newborn care includes:

  • early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding
  • thermal care (including prompt drying and covering at birth, maximizing skin-to-skin contact, delayed bathing, maintaining “warm chain”)
  • hygiene practices (including cord-care and caregiver handwashing)

There is good evidence that adherence to these recommended practices substantially reduces mortality risk, especially for very small newborns. Health service contacts (notably associated with antenatal care and the hospital admission for childbirth) are important opportunities to influence these practices. In some settings, community health workers (CHWs) can serve as important channels to influence adoption of these practices among pregnant women.

Key Resources