Hyderabad: Breastfeeding a baby in the first hour of birth continues to be a challenge in India as the achieved rate is 41.6 per cent. This has to be 75 per cent, according to experts on the eve of World Breastfeeding Week.
The first-hour breast milk is important as it provides the infant with colostrum or first milk which is rich in protective factors and antibodies.
The National Family Health Survey 2015-2016 shows that the percentage of children below 6 months who are exclusively breastfed is 54.9 in India. The percentage is slightly higher in rural areas when compared to urban areas. India stands at 56 out of 76 countries on early initiation of breastfeeding according to the 2018 global breastfeeding rankings.
Dr Bhavana Kasu, senior obstetric gynaecologist at Birthright Rainbow Hospitals, said, “In clinical experience it has been found that there are negative perceptions among family members and new mothers that breast milk is light, it won’t be sufficient for the growth of the baby. They feel breastfeeding may affect the mother’s appearance. Hence they feel there must be supplementary feeds provided. These are concerns which require to be scientifically dealt with by healthcare professionals.”
Education about breast milk is not only for young mothers but the other members of the family including the baby’s fathers who have to be aware of the first one hour of feeding and exclusively breastfeeding the child for six months. The reason for exclusive breastfeed wherein no additional food or even water is advocated is that it protects the infant from diseases.
Experts state that the risk of infections, early onset of diseases and death is high when the infant is put on supplementary foods and the overall health and development is affected.
Statistics show that 21 per cent in high income countries and 4 per cent in low and middle income groups never breastfed.
Nutrition of young mothers plays an important role in breastfeeding. Dr Preeti Sharma, consultant paediatrician at KIMS Cuddles, said, “Good nutrition for young mothers is not just required only during the onset of pregnancy but much before that. For this reason, the nutrition programmes are focusing on adolescent girls where the nutrition deficiencies can be addressed.”
She said the most common deficiency noted is iron and there is very poor protein intake. For that reason these two aspects are the main focus. “It must be understood that health for young girls begins much before conception and they will be healthy mothers whose lactation cycle will support the infant requirements.”
Experts state that the focus on programmes regarding providing nutrition for girls and paediatricians and gynaecologists working towards achieving the goal has helped those who opt for institutions for childbirth and care. While the coverage in India in terms of institution childbirth is between 75 and 80 per cent across states, the interventions are based on the need of the young mothers and not proactively carried out as required....