Thousands of babies born last year at the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust didn't get a first feed of breast milk, according to NHS figures.

The first breastfeed contains colostrum, nicknamed "liquid gold" because of its numerous health benefits and protective effects.

But more than 40% of babies born at the trust between 2017-18 missed out on this important first feed.

Over the year, 4,875 babies were born, and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals recorded data on the first feed for 4,875 newborns. Of those, 41% did not have maternal or donor breast milk for their first feed.

That's 2,020 babies who missed out on the numerous benefits of initial breastfeeding.

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."

But Ms Bailey said that the first feed can sometimes be "tricky" for new mothers.

"The baby can be drowsy from pain medication, maybe mum's sore or just completely knackered," she said. "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."

"If you are wanting to breastfeed and the first feed isn't working, don't panic," she said. "Try to get support with it along the way."

Skin-to-skin contact within an hour of giving birth has been proven to encourage a baby's natural instinct to breastfeed.

The process involves putting the newborn baby on its mother's bare chest and covering both with a warm blanket.

At Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, 90% of mothers had skin-to-skin contact with their babies within an hour of giving birth - higher than the national average of 81%.

Data on skin-to-skin contact was recorded for 4,280 mothers, excluding those who had premature babies born before 37 weeks. In total, 4,805 mothers gave birth at the trust last year.

The Royal College of Midwives said that maternity wards should "make every possible effort for all babies to have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers within one hour of birth".

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."

She added: "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."