CAIRO: Unicef released a press release Thursday calling on health care givers in Egyptian facilities to ensure that breastfeeding begins within one hour of birth.
Breastfeeding babies can immediately prevent a significant number of neonatal deaths, explained the statement. But newborns delivered in local hospitals often do not get immediate access to their mothers, it continued
In Egypt, only 42.9 percent of children began breastfeeding within one hour of birth in 2005, a marked reduction from the 2000 figure of 57 percent.
The Egyptian Movement to Promote Breast Feeding is the first central organization in the Middle East to promote breastfeeding.
Pediatrician Ali Shalabi told Daily News Egypt, “Research confirmed that the skin-to-skin contact between the mother and her newborn child during the 30 minutes following the delivery of the baby is very important in increasing the mother’s milk.
He added that in Egyptian hospitals they think that it is better to take the newborn away from his mother so she can relax, but that there is no benefit in that.
“Early breastfeeding provides critical nutrients, protects infants against deadly diseases and fosters growth and development, Unicef Egypt’s Deputy Representative Hanan Suleiman said at the start of World Breastfeeding Week.
Shalabi added, “Our organization is doing research and trying to spread awareness through giving out free books to new doctors and nurses and new moms.
During the late 80s and the 90s the situation was developing and a lot of people were aware of the importance of breastfeeding, but since 2000, things have taken a new turn.
According to Unicef’s press release, 2.4 percent of all babies in Egypt die in the first month because they do not receive the nutrients from breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding is common but not universal in early infancy. The rate is 52.4 percent among infants zero to three months old, which drops to 38.3 percent among infants zero to five months old. This leaves hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to disease and death.
Shalaby said, “When Unicef was supporting our organization we were able to reach people in Minya, Tanta, Alexandria and other places. We were able to do more research and to provide courses for the new moms and the nurses and also teenagers so they know about the importance of this critical issue.
He added, “We were able to chart an international covenant to list the alternatives to breastfeeding in order to stem the use of formula milk. It is not to publicize breastfeeding as a good thing that will help children to get better.
Unicef also said in their press release that according to the 2005 Demographic and Health Survey, only about a third of women who are assisted by a doctor or nurse, or who deliver in a private health facility start breastfeeding within one hour. Almost 75 percent of births in Egypt are attended to by a health care professional.
“Ironically medical assistance at delivery and delivery in private health facilities are associated with lower proportion of early initiation, said Suleiman, adding that improved training and communication campaigns could help reverse this worrying trend.
Unicef support for integrated, community-based health care includes the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding. The agency is working with the Ministry of Health and Population and relevant partners to revitalize the Baby Friendly Initiative, support a national infant feeding strategy, improve ante- and post-natal care and boost resources for new mothers at the community level.