Kerala has no clue on working moms' feeding pattern

ICDS campaigns concentrate on anganwadis where urban women hardly stop by

Thiruvananthapuram: Of the many awareness activities being conducted by the state government in connection with World Breastfeeding Week, almost none have been designed to reach out to the urban working mothers. It is likely that they form a significant portion of the mothers who choose infant formula, but the state does not have the statistics to prove this.

In fact, the figures on breastfeeding, to understand trends and devise a suitable campaigning strategy, is not enough. Director of Health Services Dr R. Ramesh says, “we have a high coverage of early breastfeeding initiation, as 99.9 percent of the deliveries are institutional. But there is no statistics for exclusive breastfeeding.” Studies conducted by independent agencies say that Kerala has 80 percent breastfeeding initiation, but only close to 50 percent mothers rely on exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, according to Dr I. Riyaz, Assistant Professor (Paediatrics), Government Medical College Hospital.

The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which comes under Social Justice Department, has planned many awareness activities. These include conducting awareness meetings at anganwadis and house visits made by anganwadi workers. Exhibitions, quizzes and healthy baby shows have also been planned.

But it is doubtful if working mothers, especially in the cities, will get to be part of these. State Project Director (ICDS) V.S. Venu says, “our focus is on the most vulnerable strata of the society, who may not be very educated.” ICDS does not have any statistics to decide who the campaign should be targeted at. “Working mothers who need to leave home at 8 am and return only by 6 pm will have to opt for alternatives to breast milk. However we have not done studies to prove this,” Venu says.

The Health Department takes the help of Junior Public Health nurses, ASHA workers and anganwadi workers for awareness. Dr Ramesh says, “the network is well connected in panchayats. Moreover the state government offers six months’ maternity leave. This does not cover those working in private institutions. There are not as many JPH nurses in urban areas. But we are also spreading awareness through is mass media,” he says.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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