e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Early initiation of breastfeeding to promote exclusive 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, such as reducing the risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence.

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 placed in early skin-to-skin contact with their mother also appear to interact more with their mothers and cry less.

WHO recommendations

Early and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact between mothers and infants should be facilitated and encouraged as soon as possible after birth.

All mothers should be supported to initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth, within the first hour after delivery.

Mothers should receive practical support to enable them to initiate and establish breastfeeding and manage common breastfeeding difficulties.

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This is one of several WHO recommendations on protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding in facilities providing maternity and newborn services. Additional information for the full set of recommendations can be found in 'Full set of recommendations' and in the guideline, under ‘WHO documents’ below.

WHO documents

WHO documents


GRC-approved guidelines
Other guidance documents
Evidence

Evidence


Related Cochrane reviews
Other related systematic reviews
Clinical trials

Last update:

20 February 2018 16:37 CET

Category 1 intervention

Guidelines have been recently 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.

Global targets

Implementation of this intervention may contribute to the achievement of the following targets:

Global nutrition targets

Target 4: No increase in childhood overweight


Target 5: Increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in first 6 months up to at least 50%

Global NCD targets

Target 7: Halt the rise in diabetes and obesity