A STUDY has documented that 22.3 per cent of all neonatal deaths could be prevented if women initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
Even if breastfeeding is started within 24 hours after birth, 16 per cent neonatal deaths can still be prevented, says the Ministry of Health's National Food and Nutrition Centre.
The NFNC said hospital practices surrounding labour and birth had been found to have great impact on the success of breastfeeding initiation.
"Current international and national guidelines recommend initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth," it said.
"Early initiation of breastfeeding is extremely important for establishing successful lactation as well as for providing colostrum to the baby.
"Ideally, the baby should receive the first breastfeed as soon as possible and preferably within one hour of birth."
The NFNC said early skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery and the opportunity to suckle within the first hour after birth were both important.
It said evidence on early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants concluded that the intervention may benefit breastfeeding outcomes, early mother-infant attachment, infant crying and cardio-respiratory stability, and had no apparent short or long-term negative effects.
Furthermore, the NFNC said, an epidemiological evidence of a causal association between early breastfeeding and infection specific mortality in the newborn infants had also been documented.
After caesarean section under general anesthesia, initiation of breastfeeding may be delayed, it said.
"In such situations, breastfeeding can be initiated within a few hours, as soon as the mother regains consciousness," said the NFNC.
With August declared the National Nutrition Month by the Health Ministry, the focus is on breastfeeding until Friday.