Exclusive breastfeeding through six months of age, followed by breastfeeding supplemented by complementary feeding, is widely acknowledged as a key component of child survival efforts. However, specifically for improving newborn outcomes, our focus is on early initiation of breastfeeding and desisting from offering the newborn any other feeds.
percentage of infants under six months of age who are exclusively breastfed
number of infant deaths that can be attributed to suboptimal breastfeeding practices
percentage reduction in risk of newborn death when breastfeeding is initiated within one hour of birth
Breastfeeding is one component of an important set of care practices, which also include extended skin-to-skin care and other measures to ensure thermal stability. While these measures can be beneficial for all babies, they are especially important for very small newborns for whom the transition to life outside of the uterus can challenge their limited ability to adapt.
For preterm newborns, the interval between feedings is quite important. Depending on gestational age at birth, they may require feeding at intervals of no more than 2.5 hours around the clock. Babies born significantly preterm lack a fully developed ability to suckle and may require special measures: either cup or spoon feeding or administration of breastmilk through a nasogastric tube.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life reduces child mortality and has health benefits that extend into adulthood. Breastfeeding benefits not only the child but the mother and family also, as it is free of cost and reduces the risk of infection in newborns, hence a reduction in medical bills. Breastmilk substitutes and animal milk not only lack essential immune-building components, they also expose the infant to an increased risk of infection and morbidity.