The World Health Organization and UNICEF have published a new report on early initiation of breastfeeding. Capture the Moment – Early initiation of breastfeeding: The best start for every newborn discusses the global rates of early initiation of breastfeeding – that is, putting newborns to the breast within the first hour of birth.
The report estimates that globally 42% of newborns are put to the breast within the first hour of birth. However, the report highlights that many countries in Western Europe are not achieving early initiation. Use of breast milk substitutes (infant formula), the rise of caesarean sections and gaps in the quality of care are cited as some of the challenges.
IPH published an all island report on breastfeeding in 2017. This report highlighted that in the Republic of Ireland between 2006 and 2015, breastfeeding rates at discharge from hospital increased from 49% to 58% – a nine percentage point rise. In the Republic of Ireland, starting to breastfeed is measured based on data from the National Perinatal Reporting System which records whether the mother is breastfeeding on discharge from hospital.
In the same period in Northern Ireland, breastfeeding rates at discharge increased by five percentage points – from 40% to 45%. There are two ways in which starting to breastfeed is measured in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Maternity System (NIMATS) records if breastfeeding was attempted (breastfeeding is considered to have been ‘attempted’ if the baby has been put to the breast or received mother’s breastmilk) and breastfeeding on discharge from hospital is recorded on the Child Health System.