|A healthcare provider at the National Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital helps a mother breastfeed her baby within one hour after birth. – VNA/VNS Photo Dương Ngọc
HA NOI — Mother and child should have sustained skin-to-skin contact shortly after birth, the World Health Organisation (WHO) emphasised yesterday as it launched its "First Embrace" campaign in Viet Nam.
The campaign highlights simple steps in early essential newborn care (EENC) that, according to WHO, help save thousands of newborn babies and prevent complications that result from unsafe or outdated practices in newborn care in the country each year.
The campaign will be launched simultaneously launched at three hospitals this week -- Tu Du Hospital in HCM City, the Obstetrics and Pediatrics Hospital in Da Nang, and the National Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital in Ha Noi.
The EENC begins with the First Embrace or sustained skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child shortly after birth, helping transfer warmth, placental blood and protective bacteria, and also encouraging exclusive breastfeeding.
Skin-to-skin contact should be followed by proper clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord with sterile instruments. Breastfeeding then initiates naturally at feeding cues, such as drooling, tonguing, and biting of the hand.
Early initiation of breastfeeding is especially important because colostrum, or "first milk," contains essential nutrients, antibodies and immune cells.
Other routine steps such as the provision of vitamin K, eye prophylaxis, immunisations, weighing and a complete examination of the baby's health, should be carried out after the first breastfeeding. These steps must be performed in proper sequence for maximum benefit.
"Separation of the mother and child immediately after birth is an age-old practice. But it occurs during a crucial time when babies are programmed to look for their mother's breast in order to breastfeed," said Dr Maria Asuncion Silvestre, a paediatric neonatologist who consults for WHO.
She said a supportive environment, informed families and individuals that insist on best practices from health care providers are required to ensure complete implementation of the EENC because customs and beliefs among some communities and healthcare providers may act as a barrier.
In 2012, over 17,000 newborns died within the first month of life. The most common causes of newborn death or disease include prematurity (being born too soon), low birth weight and severe infection such as pneumonia or diarrhoea.
"We lose far too many newborn infants to preventable factors, such as disease," explained Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.
"First Embrace addresses this challenge by urging women and health care providers across Viet Nam to take simple steps to protect babies during the crucial time immediately after birth." — VNS