Researchers explored to determine whether breastfeeding interventions and skin-to-skin care contributed to sudden unexpected infant death in early neonates.
Previous research revealed that a high number of sudden unexpected neonatal death occurs within the first six days after birth, suggesting that hospital practices may be playing a role. These observations led to concerns surrounding the hospital-based practices of breastfeeding interventions and skin-to-skin contact.
In a recently published study in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers used survey data to investigate whether in fact there was any association between the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative – an initiative launched by the World Health Organization to implement practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding – and the neonatal death from sudden unexpected infant death in the United States and Massachusetts. The data collected for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and skin-to-skin care derived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which assessed from 2004-2016 and 2007-2015, respectively. The data for sudden unexpected infant death and asphyxia (deprived of oxygen) derived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention WONDER were assessed from 2004-2016.
There was a significant increase in the number of births that occurred in Baby-Friendly hospitals over the study period, from 1.8% to 18.6%. In addition to this, hospitals implementing skin-to-skin contact practices between mother and baby also increased over the study period, from 40.4% to 83.0%.
The researchers found that the increase in breastfeeding interventions was associated with decreases in sudden unexpected infant death that occurred in the first six days following birth, however, this study does not prove a causal relationship. The study concluded that breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact initiatives did not have an adverse impact on infant deaths as was previously suggested.
It is important to note that the study did not measure the implementation of the Ten Steps of Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and the skin-to-skin care in every facility. Also, the study does not elaborate as to why there is a decline in sudden unexpected infant death and it also states it does not attribute it to the increase in Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and skin-to-skin care.
The results of the study suggest that an increase in breastfeeding interventions and skin-to-skin care decreases sudden unexpected infant death in the first six days after birth, but further research is required to confirm these results and explain the reason for this decline.
Written by Neha Ramjuttun
Reference: Bartick, M., Boisvert, M., Philipp, B., & Feldman-Winter, L. (2019). Trends in breastfeeding interventions, skin-to-skin care, and sudden infant death in the first 6 days after birth. The Journal of Pediatrics. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2019.09.069
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