e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Early initiation of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both the mother and infant. Breast milk contains all the nutrients an infant needs in the first six months of life. Breastfeeding protects against diarrhoea and common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, and may also have longer-term health benefits for the mother and child, such as reducing the risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence. Breastfeeding has also been associated with higher intelligence quotient (IQ) in children.

Provision of mother’s breast milk to infants within one hour of birth is referred to as “early initiation of breastfeeding” and ensures that the infant receives the colostrum, or “first milk”, which is rich in protective factors.

Current evidence indicates that skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant shortly after birth helps to initiate early breastfeeding and increases the likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding for one to four months of life as well as the overall duration of breastfeeding. Infants paced in early skin-to-skin contact with their mother also appear to interact more with their mothers and cry less.

WHO recommendations

WHO recommends that mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.

Babies should be placed in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately following birth for at least an hour and mothers should be encouraged to recognize when their babies are ready to breastfeed, offering help if needed.

WHO documents


GRC-approved guidelines

Status: not currently available

Other guidance documents

Evidence


Related Cochrane reviews
Other related systematic reviews
Clinical trials
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Last update:

23 October 2014 12:28 CEST

Category 2 intervention

Systematic review(s) have been conducted but no recent guidelines yet available that have been approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee

Essential Nutrition Actions

This intervention is supported by Essential Nutrition Actions targeting the first 1000 days of life.