The rise in elective caesarean section has led to a decrease in breastfeeding, a report by World Health Organisation has warned.
The report by WHO done across 51 countries revealed that early breastfeeding initiation rates are significantly lower among newborns delivered by caesarean section.
This, it says, was interfering with the growth and survival of the babies.
Data by WHO revealed that three in five babies are not breastfed within the first hour of life, putting them at higher risk of death and disease and making them less likely to continue breastfeeding.
“Most women after elective caesarean section, they are either recovering from anaesthetic drugs or are in pain and cannot breastfeed their children. This is hindering all the benefits that have been made so far,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said.
He adds: “Breastfeeding gives children the best possible start in life. We must urgently scale up support to mothers so they can give their children the start they deserve immediately they are born.”
The report notes that newborns who breastfeed in the first hour of life are significantly more likely to survive. Even a delay of a few hours after birth could pose life-threatening consequences.
Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulates the mother’s production of breastmilk, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.
According to WHO, newborns who began breastfeeding between two and 23 hours after birth had a 33 per cent greater risk of dying compared to those who began breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
Among newborns who started breastfeeding a day or more after birth, the risk was more than twice as high.
The global health agency gave an example of Egypt where caesarean section rates doubled from 20 per cent to 52 per cent between 2005 and 2014 and during the same period, rates of early initiation of breastfeeding decreased from 40 to 27 per cent.
They agency reported that the same was being experienced in other countries as well saying that only 19 per cent of babies born by C-section were breastfed in the first hour after birth, compared to 39 per cent of babies born by natural delivery.
The Ministry of Health has warned of the dramatic rise of unintended C-section.
Last year, the National Hospital Insurance Fund’s pay-outs for caesarean-section births hit Sh1.2 billion.