August 6, 2021 11:40:20 pm
Government functionaries and public health experts in a webinar on Friday highlighted Gujarat’s “missed opportunity” when it comes to breastfeeding of infants within an hour of their birth which remains low despite the state seeing high percentage coverage when it comes to institutional births.
At a webinar conducted by the Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar (IIPHG) in collaboration with the Women and Child Development department of Gujarat government to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, nutrition specialist with UNICEF Gujarat Dr Kavita Sharma highlighted that while institutional delivery went up from 88.5 per cent in NFHS-4 (for the year 2015-16) to 94.3 per cent in NFHS-5 (for the year 2019-20), early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth declined from 50 per cent in NFHS-4 to 37.8 percent in NFHS-5, the state thus losing out on an opportunity to initiate early breastfeeding in labour rooms given the high institutional birth.
Exemplifying, Dr Sharma pointed out that in Navsari the gap is exceptionally glaring. “If we look at Navsari, early initiation of breastfeeding is 17% and institutional delivery is 99.3%…this is a missed opportunity and we should cash in on it,” Sharma said, indicating that the opportunity here can be introducing early breastfeeding in upto 99.3% of the infants who were born in an institutional set-up.
Sharma also emphasised on the need for support structures to facilitate breastfeeding practices, including from the family, hospitals and other stakeholders.
Meanwhile in the Covid-19 context, Sharma added that while there is a fear among mothers on whether they should be breastfeeding or not, she added that guidelines “all advocate that breastfeeding must continue regardless of the Covid-19 status.”
Meanwhile, based on field-level experiences, state program officer of ICDS Gujarat Aarti Thakar emphasised the importance of counselling and skill upgradation of health workers.
“We have to start counselling nurses as well as others so as to encourage breastfeeding from the labour room itself. Frontline workers’ skill upgradation is important especially for our ASHA and anganwadi workers since they are the first point of contact. We also need to ensure that there is no dropout from the 6 month breastfeeding period.”
Meanwhile commissioner and secretary of WCD department KK Nirala admitted that one must be acknowledging the parameters where the state is not performing well, early breastfeeding being one, so as to address it better. “Now we should not do a lot of research on already researched topics as a lot of studies are already there and particularly in Gujarat we all know of the many important factors which are responsible for our poor record in breastfeeding. My first request is, whatever may these reasons be, IIPH-G may record it all — be it traditional, cultural, misconceptions or some other issues with the mothers who are perhaps suffering from diseases such as HIV, or mental health,” said Nirala.
“While WCD, IIPH-G, health departments are responsible, the education department can help too. When our girls go to college, universities whereafter an age comes when they are preparing for motherhood…Then why not (have) that kind of ecosystem or environment should be on university campus…Professors or researchers can have that kind of debate about what all is required to prepare to be mother, what needs to be taken care of once you become a mother…There is a need to focus on this,” added Nirala.
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