Breastfeed, for keeping newborns free of infections

A new study based on data collected from the city claims breastfeeding within one hour of birth prevents neonatal sepsis

Updated - July 03, 2016 07:53 pm IST

Published - July 02, 2016 12:00 am IST - HYDERABAD:

Here is another reason for mothers to breastfeed babies – preventing neonatal sepsis that kills about 15 lakh newborns worldwide every year.

A recently published study based on data collected from the city claims breastfeeding within one hour of birth can lower the risk of sepsis in neonates, conferring protection against infections responsible for nearly half of all newborn deaths. In India, the incidence of neonatal sepsis is estimated at 30 for every 1,000 live births.

The research titled 'A Cross-Sectional Study on Effect of Initiation of Breastfeeding Within One Hour of Birth on Early Onset Neonatal Sepsis', published in June issue of International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research was authored by Dr. A. Shravan Kumar and Dr. Mohammed Abdul Wassay. Dr. Kumar, the study's corresponding author, works in the Department of Community Medicine, Osmania Medical College, Hyderabad.

The study also concluded that delay in initiation of breastfeeding increases risk of early onset of sepsis (within 72 hours of birth). For the study, researchers used a standard questionnaire developed by the World Health Organisation and obtained data on births of 50 neonates born in January and February 2016 at Niloufer Hospital. The data collected revealed no incidence of neonatal sepsis among the 13 babies who were breastfed within the first hour. Among the 37 newborns breastfed later than an hour after birth, sepsis was detected in seven babies.

Among the seven babies who contracted infections, four were initiated on breastfeeding later than 24 hours but within 48 hours, while two were initiated between one and 24 hours after birth. One neonate was initiated between 48 hours and 72 hours, leading researchers to conclude that delay in breastfeeding increases the risk of neonatal sepsis. Though a small-sample study, it highlights the importance of immediate breastfeeding which doctors advocate. “The findings are specifically true in case of pre-term babies. Newborns do not have the immune system to fight infections and are susceptible. The dictum is a mother should initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible,” said T.P. Karthik, senior paediatrician and neonatologist at Yashoda Hospitals, who was not associated with the study.

Data collected from the Niloufer also revealed that 30 of the 50 mothers were not aware of initiating breastfeeding within the first hour and breastfeeding exclusively for six months.

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