Not all women are able to breastfeed their infants, but for those who can, this combined feeding and bonding process can provide newborns with the ideal foundation for the rest of their lives. She said it is the best gift that mothers can give their newborns and babies.
"The extension of paid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks in July and to 26 weeks by July 2020 is a positive move; enabling women to stay at home and feed their babies if they are able; we'd also like to see more workplaces considering how they can support their staff members that are trying to juggle breastfeeding and returning to work", Ms Coetzee said.
Breastfeeding also improves a child's IQ, school readiness and attendance, and is associated with earning higher income when they reach adulthood.
The WHO and Unicef's new report stresses that delays in breastfeeding can endanger babies.
"Latin America and the Caribbean is among the regions with the highest global averages for breastfeeding, yet much remains to be done if we are to achieve the goal of exclusively breastfeeding 50% of all babies during the first 6 months of life", said Ruben Grajeda, PAHO's Regional Advisor in Nutrition.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged scaling up efforts to support mothers to give their children the start they deserve.
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The benefits of breastfeeding can last into later life, including by reducing infections that can cause nausea and vomiting, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood leukemia and heart disease in adulthood.
Immediately placing the baby on its mother for skin-to-skin contact also promotes transfer of important, protective bacteria; regulates the child's body temperature; and promotes the flow of the hormone oxytocin. But the early initiation rates were found significantly lower among newborns delivered by caesarean section in the country.
The report entitled "Capture the Moment", by the United Nations children's fund, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization, WHO, was released ahead of the World Breastfeeding Week, which celebrated annually from 1 to 7 August to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world by providing infants with the nutrients they need.
"Initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of life is no easy feat: mothers can not be expected to do it alone", the authors write. Among newborns who started breastfeeding a day or more after birth, the risk was more than twice as high.
The authors said that despite large gaps based on geography, other differences - such as sex of baby, rural verse urban or household wealth - didn't account for when a baby first initiated breastfeeding.
"It indicates that people are getting more aware about the importance of early breastfeeding in the rural areas of Nigeria", she said.
Ms. Mayer said millennial moms are the ones really driving the change in how breastfeeding is being accepted in the mainstream, falling into line with other women's rights movements like "Times Up" and the "Me Too" movement - protecting women against sexual assault.