By Naila Huseynli
Only two in 10 babies born in Azerbaijan are breastfed in the first hour of life, reported UNICEF office in Azerbaijan.
The organization said that approximately 28 million babies around the world (three in five) are not breastfed within the first hour. It puts them higher risk of death and disease and makes them less likely continue breastfeeding. Most of these babies are born in low- and middle-income countries, where breastfeeding can save lives.
Azerbaijan is also among the few countries with less than 20 percent of children receiving early initiation of breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding helps children receive the best possible start in life,” says Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Representative in Azerbaijan. “We are happy to be supporting the Government in promoting exclusive breastfeeding in Azerbaijan, but more can be done to urgently scale up support to mothers – amongst family members, health care workers, employers and the government, so all new-born children receive the life-saving nutrition they need from the moment they are born.”
Since 2016, UNICEF Azerbaijan has also supported the Ministry of Health on promotion of breastfeeding with a number of activities, ranging from joint communication campaigns to training healthcare professionals.
“The Ministry of Health, with UNICEF’s support, is planning to reinforce the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to encourage health facilities meet international standards of practices on breastfeeding,” says Carwardine.
In 2010, only 50 percent of children less than one year of age in Azerbaijan's regions were fed breast milk, in Baku the figure was 45-48 percent, according to the Director of Scientific Research Pediatrics Institute Nasib Guliyev.
The report “Capture the Moment” finds that despite the importance of early initiation of breastfeeding, too many newborns wait too long for different reasons. The report analyzes data from 76 countries.
There are also gaps in the quality of care provided to mothers and newborns. The presence of a skilled birth attendant does not seem to affect rates of early breastfeeding in accordance with the report. Across 58 countries between 2005 and 2017, deliveries at health institutions grew by 18 percent, while early initiation rates increased only by 6 percent. In many cases, babies are separated from their mothers immediately after birth and guidance from health workers is limited. In Serbia, the rates increased by 43 percent from 2010 to 2014 largely due to efforts to improve the care mothers received at birth.
Earlier studies show that newborns who began breastfeeding between two and 23 hours after birth had a 33 percent greater risk of dying compared with those who began breastfeeding within one hour of birth. Among newborns that started breastfeeding a day or more after birth, the risk was more than twice as high, cited in the report.
The report urges governments, donors and other decision-makers to adopt strong legal measures to restrict the marketing of infant formula and other breast milk substitutes.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, UNICEF works for every child and everywhere in order to build a better world for everyone.