Nearly 60 per cent of children below three years of age in India are denied of ‘first immunization’ in form of the first milk of their mother, according to a new report by child rights body CRY.
Colostrum is the first form of milk produced immediately following the delivery of baby. Colostrum contains antibodies to protect the newborn against diseases. It is considered the most effective, naturally available and least expensive life-saver ever.
According to a report prepared by ‘Child Rights and You’, taking data from the latest NFHS survey in 2015-16, three in every five children in India have been denied colostrum.
“Nearly 60 per cent of children below three years are denied of their ‘first immunization’ – as colostrum (the first milk of the mother) feeding is commonly referred to – as in medical terms it is the most effective, naturally available and least expensive life-saver ever,” the report said.
The report was released during the World Breastfeeding Week celebrated in the first week of August every year.
“The status of breastfed children in India still remains far less than promising. Even though breastfeeding practices takes a positive turn across the country, only two in every five children below three years are reported to be breastfed within the first hour of birth,” the report said.
The report said a worrying trend is observed when it comes to exposing the child to complementary feeding – introducing her to semi-solid and solid food along with breast milk.
“While in 2005-06 more than 52 per cent of children within the age-group of 6-8 months were reported to receive complementary feeding along with breast milk, the figure has come down to 42.7 per cent in 2015-16. Also, children growing in urban set ups seem to fare poorly than their rural counterparts, when it comes to exclusive breastfeeding in first six months,” the report said.
The report further said the data suggests that while 56 per cent children in the rural areas have received exclusive breastfeeding in their first six months, in urban set ups the percentage is 52 per cent.
Puja Marwaha, the CEO at CRY, said exclusive breastfeeding during her first six months is essential for the overall development of the new-born.
“The fact that mother’s first milk is of utmost importance to the initial immunity development of the child makes it a mandatory diet for the baby. Mean intakes of mothers milk provide sufficient energy and protein to meet requirements during the first 6 months of infancy. However, these are not surely as widespread pieces of information as they should be,” said Marwaha
Highlighting findings of studies that exclusively breastfed infants are at much lower risk of diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia, Marwaha reiterated India’s commitment towards the SDG (Sustainable Development Goal – 3) – to end preventable deaths of new-borns and under-5 children by 2030.
“The two targets are to reduce new-born mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1000 live births in every country (SDG 3.2); and to reduce under-five mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births in every country (SDG 3.2),” she said.