Early initiation of breastfeeding (EIBF) within 1 hour of birth can decrease neonatal death. However, the prevalence of EIBF is approximately 50% in many developing countries, and data remains unavailable for some countries. We conducted a secondary analysis using the WHO Global Survey on Maternal and Perinatal Health to identify factors hampering EIBF. We described the coverage of EIBF among 373 health facilities for singleton neonates for whom breastfeeding was initiated after birth. Maternal and facility characteristics of EIBF were compared to those of breastfeeding >1 hour after birth, and multiple logistic regression analysis was performed. In total, 244,569 singleton live births without severe adverse outcomes were analysed. The EIBF prevalence varied widely among countries and ranged from 17.7% to 98.4% (average, 57.6%). There was less intra-country variation for BFI <24 hours. After adjustment, EIBF was significantly lower among women with complications during pregnancy and caesarean delivery. Globally, EIBF varied considerably across countries. Maternal complications during pregnancy, caesarean delivery and absence of postnatal/neonatal care guidelines at hospitals may affect EIBF. Our findings suggest that to better promote EIBF, special support for breastfeeding promotion is needed for women with complications during pregnancy and those who deliver by caesarean section.