Programmes highlight importance of breastfeeding babies

Maternity institutions held various awareness programmes, including essay competitions for children, rangoli events and folk performances, to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding babies to prevent a host of childhood disorders and growth impediments.

This year, World Breastfeeding Week was celebrated on the theme ‘Step up Breastfeeding - Educate and Support’, which was chosen by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. The Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India focused its campaigns around the network of Breastfeeding Friendly Hospitals in India (BFHI).

The WHO and UNICEF recommend that children be initiated to breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, and be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, to the exclusion of other foods or liquids, including water. Infants should be breastfed on demand i.e., as often as the child wants, day and night. In cases where the mother’s own milk is unavailable or insufficient, the next best option is to use pasteurised donor human milk (PDHM).

Obstetricians in the city stressed the importance of educating mothers about breastfeeding, especially given that a significant gap persists between high rates of institutional deliveries and neonates’ access to breast milk. In fact, data from the National Family Health Survey 5 (2019-21) indicate that as against a nearly 100% rate of institutional deliveries, just over half of the newborns benefit from early initiation to breastfeeding.

“Today, every mother, parent and family knows that breastfeeding is the best for newborn babies, but we are yet to achieve 100% exclusive breastfeeding,” said Manjubala Dash, Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mother Theresa Post Graduate and Research Institute of Health Sciences, who is also the national trainer for Mothers Absolute Affection programme/Infant and Young Child Feeding course.

“The first and foremost responsibility of the healthcare provider should be to educate the expectant mothers during pregnancy on the importance of breastfeeding as the first immunisation for the baby,” she said.

The Rajiv Gandhi Mother and Children’s Hospital held various programmes to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and recommend the continuation of the practice for two years with the initiation of appropriate and adequate complementary feeding.

Irrespective of whether it is a normal delivery or a caesarean section, early initiation of breastfeeding by breast crawl method - putting the baby on the chest of the mother within the first hour of birth - is strongly recommended. At the level of government, the Infant Milk Substitute Act guidelines need to be strictly implemented. Efforts should be made to create awareness among health professionals on IMS Act guidelines, and a nodal officer should be appointed to monitor and evaluate its implementation, Dr. Dash said.

The onus is also on the family members to support the mother’s autonomy of choice in breastfeeding the child by ensuring good nutrition throughout the lactation period, adequate rest, a safe environment and privacy.

Making more hospitals breastfeeding-friendly/baby-friendly, developing a mother-tracking system once the mothers were discharged from the hospital so that they can continue getting support from the health personnel to continue exclusive breastfeeding, and training staff to update their knowledge and skills for the promotion of breastfeeding are also recommended.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2022 8:04:56 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/programmes-highlight-importance-of-breastfeeding-babies/article65741992.ece