Breastfeeding habits among the women in the district present a dismal picture despite the fact that it is considered to be a preventive intervention with maximum number of benefits due to the immunity provided by mother’s milk which helps in fighting diseases later in life.
Whether it is the low level of awareness coupled with other factors or lack of interest in breastfeeding due to figure-conscious attitude among urban women,the figures on breastfeeding level in the district suggest that women no longer take breastfeeding seriously.
Only nearly two per cent of the women in the district initiate breastfeeding to newborns in the first hour of birth while just about 18 per cent adopt exclusive breastfeeding for the first three months,according to the Breastfeeding Promotional Network of India (BPNI). Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months means giving only mother’s milk to the child without any supplementary diet.
The three main aspects of breastfeeding are initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth,exclusive breastfeeding of mother’s milk for the first six months and complimentary breastfeeding for the next six months.
On the other hand,the figure of exclusive breastfeeding (up to first six months) in the state,as per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)- III is pegged at 36 per cent,which is even less than the countrywide average of 55.2 per cent as per the NFHS-II.
“While a major chunk of rural women lack awareness about its importance and show delay or lack of care due to household chores,the urban women have their own set of problems. The working women are many times not able to breastfeed their newborn for the first six months,the period when the infant is required to be breastfed exclusively. Workload at office and at home gives them less time to take care of the child properly,” said peadiatrician Dr Rajinder Gulati,state president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of One Million Campaign,a worldwide programme to create awareness about the importance of breastfeeding at ESIC Model Hospital today. Also present on the occasion was Dr Arun Handa. The campaign aims to collect at least one million online signatures to the pledge on breastfeeding.
The campaign has been initiated by an international body Baby Food Action Network,Asia,which is a global response to preventable diseases. Nearly 300,000 infants,several of them under the age of one year had developed incurable kidney disease as a result of consuming contaminated infant formula in China.
He said that it is sad to know,but true that a particular section of women who are highly figure-conscious do not show any interest in breastfeeding for fear of damaging their figures.
Both the aspects of breastfeeding initiation within the first hour of the birth and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months are highly important,adds Dr Gulati,who is also the coordinator of BPNI in the district and a national trainer for infant and young child feeding.
“Mainly,initiation of breastfeeding lacks among women for various reasons including family traditions,” he says.
The low level of breastfeeding habits are evident from the fact that the state has the third worst figures,after Uttar Pradesh and Bihar,when it comes to initiation of breastfeeding habits among women.