In a heart-warming trend for the country, recent data shows an increase in the number of mothers who breastfed 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 per cent in 2005-06 to 41.6 per cent in 2015-16.”Exclusive breastfeeding as proportion of children under the age of six months has gone up to 54.9 per cent (2015-16) from 46.4per cent (2005-06),” read a statement from the ministry.
The health ministry 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 safe human breast milk,” said an official. Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital and the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, officials added, have been asked to lead awareness activities. “We have started family-centred care for newborns. Here, mothers are trained on how to breastfeed newborns and other members of the family are trained to care of the babies. The centres are helping in the faster recovery of preterm babies significantly,” said Dr Arti Maria, a neonatologist at RML.
According to Dr Bernd Stahl, R&D director of human milk research at Nutricia Research, an infant requires mother’s milk 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 children due to various reasons including lack of motivation, ignorance, work pressure and workplaces 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 breastfed for the first six months, followed by an introduction to complementary feeding at six months along with continued breastfeeding up to two years. The India Newborn Action Plan, developed by the health ministry, is targeting a 75 per cent rate of initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth by 2017 and 90 per cent by 2025.