Early Initiation of Breastfeeding Proves to be Highly Beneficial to Newborns

Priyanshi Patel ’22

Figure 1: Mother and newborn connection is vital, but this new study shows that earlier breastfeeding is also important.

Sepsis is the common pathway that leads to neonatal death due to severe illnesses and various infections. Neonatal sepsis is the main cause of neonatal deaths in most developing countries and causes 13% of deaths during the neonatal period and 42% of deaths just after 7 days. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends early initiation of breastfeeding within 1 hour of giving birth in order to facilitate optimal breastfeeding throughout infancy. Studies in Egypt, India, Nepal, and Ethiopia have examined the correlation between the time at which newborn is first breastfed and neonatal survival. Breastfeeding in a timely matter builds newborns’ immune system against infectious pathogens. No study has found direct evidence reporting the mechanism by which initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour can reduce early newborn deaths. To observe this further, research scientists from the University of Sydney collaborated with the Maternal and Child Health Division of Bangladesh to investigate the effect of breastfeeding initiation time on early newborn danger signs and severe illness.

A trial was conducted in 5 rural districts of Bangladesh with a focus on women between the ages 15 and 49. These women were followed through pregnancy and until 6 weeks after birth. Data was collected from a large community-based cohort to determine the effect of early initiation of breastfeeding on severe illnesses in the early period. The results of the study showed that the earlier breastfeeding was initiated, the lower the risk of developing illnesses in the early stage of birth. It was established that starting breastfeeding after the first hour can increase the chances of having severe illnesses. 

These findings mean that neonatal mortality is decreased if the newborn is breastfed within an hour of birth, and a reduction in the rate of severe illnesses, including suspected sepsis, also mediates this effect. This study highlighted that there needs to be some intervention to encourage women to support early initiation of breastfeeding, especially those who are at the greatest risk of delaying breastfeeding. 



  1. S. Raihana, et. al., Early initiation of breastfeeding and severe illness in the early newborn period: An observational study in rural Bangladesh. PLOS Medicine, Public Library of Science, 1-22 (2019). doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002904.
  2. Image retrieved from: https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/new-mom-holds-her-baby-in-hospital-bed-royalty-free-image/1067998464?adppopup=true

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