The Royal College of Midwives has called on maternity wards to ‘make every possible effort for all babies to have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers within one hour of birth’.
The call comes after new figures show dozens of babies born last year at the Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Trust didn’t get a first feed of breast milk.
The first breastfeed contains colostrum, nicknamed ‘liquid gold’ because of its numerous health benefits and protective effects.
But almost a third of babies born at the trust between 2017-18 missed out on this important first feed.
Over the year, 155 babies were born, and Chesterfield Royal Hospital recorded data on the first feed for 135 newborns.
Of those, 30 per cent did not have maternal or donor breast milk for their first feed.
Fran Bailey, a breastfeeding counsellor at parents’ charity the National Childbirth Trust, said: “The majority of babies have colostrum for their first feed, which is like breast milk, but much thicker and creamier.
“We call it ‘baby’s first immunisation’, because it’s rammed full of antibodies.
“There’s only around 5ml of it, a tiny amount, but it’s really good for helping to protect babies’ tummies.”
However, Ms Bailey conceded that the first feed can sometimes be ‘tricky’ for new mothers.
She continued: “The baby can be drowsy from pain medication, maybe mum’s sore or just completely knackered, those things might get in the way.”
She added that baby formula is ‘absolutely nutritionally adequate’, and that it was important to support families ‘with whatever decision they are making.’
She said: “If you are wanting to breastfeed and the first feed isn’t working, don’t panic.
“Try to get support with it along the way.”
Jane Scattergood, midwifery advisor at Public Health England, said: “Skin-to-skin contact directly after birth has lasting benefits for both mother and baby.
“It also supports breastfeeding, which helps give babies the best nutritional start in life.
“We know some mothers may need support and encouragement to help them start and continue with breastfeeding.
“That’s why we provide trusted advice to parents through our Start4Life campaign resources, and to midwives and health visitors through professional guidance.”