In a heart-warming trend for the country, recent data shows an increase in the number of mother who breastfeed their babies initially and sustained them for six months and more.
As per data from the Union health ministry, initial breastfeeding has nearly doubled in the past decade – from 23.4% in 2005-06 to 41.6% in 2015-16. “Exclusive breastfeeding as proportion of children under the age of six months has gone up to 54.9% (2015-16) from 46.4% (2005-06),” read a statement from the ministry.
The health ministry further added that to improve the scope of initial breastfeeding rates, there are plans to have lactation management centres in public hospitals. “This will ensure that sick and preterm babies are fed with safe human breast milk,” said an official. Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital and the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, officials added, have been entrusted to lead awareness activities. “We have started family-centred care for newborns. Here, mothers are trained how to breastfeed newborn and other members of the family are trained to care of the babies.The centres are helping in faster recovery of pre-term babies significantly,” Dr Arti Maria, neonatologist at RML said.
According to Dr Bernd Stahl, R&D director of human milk research at Nutricia Research, mother’s milk is required by the infant to achieve optimal growth and cognitive development of the brain. “It has a positive impact on mothers too. Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancers and metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. It also helps in post-partum weight loss,” Dr Stahl said. He added that there is no substitute to breastfeeding.
“In several households, especially in urban areas, mothers are unable to breastfeed their child due to various reasons including lack of motivation, ignorance, work pressure and work places not being equipped with facilities,” said Dr Nandan Joshi, head of nutrition science and medical affairs at Danone India.
According to WHO recommendations, infants should be exclusively breast fed for the first six months, followed by an introduction to complementary feeding at six months along with continued breast feeding up to two-years. The India Newborn Action Plan, developed by the health ministry, is targeting a 75% rate of initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth by 2017 and 90% by 2025.