First skin-to-skin contact between mother, infant can prevent newborn death

August 14, 2017

In the Western Pacific Region, a newborn dies every two minutes because of inappropriate clinical practices at the time of birth and during the first few days of life.

However, newborn mortalitycan easily be prevented through Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC), a set of simple, cost-effective interventions that can save newborn lives and give them the best start in life. The simplest solution to reduce infant death, EENC focuses on eliminating harmful and outdated childbirth, newborn and postpartum practices in the first 24 hours of life, replacing them with evidence-based practices.

A vital practice for EENC is First Embrace. This is a life-saving practice that promotes protected and prolonged skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby immediately after birth, for no less than 90 minutes. First Embrace allows for proper warming, feeding and cord care.

Four key steps of First Embrace

First Embracetransfers life-saving warmth and protective bacteria from mother to child, reducing risk of illness and infection. It also promotes a natural bond between mother and baby. First Embrace is composed of four key steps:

  1. Dry the baby immediately and thoroughly after birth to keep the baby warm, stimulate breathing and prevent hypothermia.
  2. Allow skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby as early as possible and sustain it until the completion of the first breastfeed. This will help transfer warmth and protective bacteria that keeps babies pink, warm, calm and healthy.
  3. Appropriately time clamping and cutting of the cord to reduce anemia and prevent hemorrhage for smaller babies.
  4. Initiate exclusive breastfeeding to provide all the nutrients the baby needs and reduce the risk of death.

Exclusive breastfeeding is where the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water, for the first 6 months. It protects the baby from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery after an illness.

Region’s growing and continuing support for EENC

In 2013, Member States endorsed the Action Plan for Healthy Newborn Infants in the Western Pacific Region (2014-2020) and committed to improve the quality of care for mothers and newborns in health facilities throughout the Region including scaling support for EENC.

Initially launched in Manila, Philippines in March 2015, the First Embrace campaign gathers vice ministers of health, public health experts, newborn care specialists and program managers to collectively tackle challenges impeding the rapid scale-up of EENC and commit to reaching the next 4 million, with this lifesaving intervention.

Since then the campaign has been launched in eight priority countries with the highest burden of newborn deaths in the Region, namely Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Viet Nam.

Beginning in 2017, First Embrace has expanded to countries outside the Western Pacific Region.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are holding the Second Biennial Meeting on Accelerating Progress in EENC from August 14 to 17, 2017 to accelerate efforts and mobilize political support for EENC.


Category: Features, Health alert

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