e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Early initiation of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both the mother and infant. To reduce infant mortality and ill health, WHO recommends that mothers first provide breast milk to their infants within one hour of birth – referred to as “early initiation of breastfeeding”. This ensures that the infant receives the colostrum (“first milk”), which is rich in protective factors.

In many parts of the world, the rates of early initiation of breastfeeding are extremely low. Interventions to help initiate breastfeeding early include:

  • providing mothers with information about breastfeeding before birth;
  • assisting mothers with skin-to-skin contact and with recognition of signs showing that the baby is ready to start breastfeeding;
  • ensuring that maternity facilities have polices and staff who encourage mothers and infants to stay in the same room, and initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth;
  • supporting early initiation of breastfeeding mothers that give birth at home.

WHO documents

GRC-approved guidelines

Status: not currently available

Other guidance documents


Related Cochrane reviews
Clinical trials

Last update:

25 March 2014 13:26 CET

Category 2 intervention

There is extensive research but no recent guidelines yet available that have been approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee