The number of mothers who breastfeed their babies within one hour of birth has increased in Kerala, according to a latest survey. About two-third (64.3 per cent) of mothers in Kerala now give breast milk within one hour, as per the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) conducted in the state.
The rate was only 14 per cent in 1993 (NFHS-1), 43 per cent in 1999 (NFHS-2) and 55 per cent in 2006 (NFHS-3), it said.
However, the survey found that the percentage of mothers who give only mothers’ milk in the first six months has declined from 56 per cent in 2003 to 53 per cent in 2016 in the southern state. A large proportion of mothers give water, milk products and other food/liquid in the first six months. This is not good for infants, as it leads to infection, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said here in a release.
Initiating breastfeeding within one hour of birth and exclusive breastfeeding for first six months of birth are two globally proven strategies to reduce infant deaths and diseases and malnutrition among children, it said. As per the Lancet medical journal, breastfeeding could prevent 13 per cent of deaths of children below five years. “This is equivalent to averting about 800 infant deaths every year in the state, by improved practice of breastfeeding,” it said.
According to Job Zachariah, UNICEF chief for Kerala and Tamil Nadu, children have the right to receive mothers milk, as it ensures their survival and development. “Denying breast milk to babies is violation of child rights” he said. The UN agency is organising various events the world over to promote breastfeeding practices in families and hospitals to mark world breastfeeding week from August 1 to 7.