'55 per cent babies denied optimal breastfeeding in the first year of birth'

India has scored only 78 out of 150 in breastfeeding assessment.

India has scored only 78 out of 150 in breastfeeding assessment.   | Photo Credit: CV Subrahmanyam

India is far from reaching its targets on improving infant nutrition as per the ‘4th Assessment of India’s Policies and Programmes on Infant and Young Child Feeding’, documented in “Arrested Development”, a report prepared by Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) and Public Health Resource Network (PHRN).

The report reveals that as many as 14.5 million babies in India, comprising 55 per cent of newborns in India annually, are deprived of optimal feeding practices in their first year after birth. The findings were released by Nutan Guha Biswas, additional secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, here on Tuesday.

The assessment, undertaken as part of the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative, reveals gaps in all ten areas of policies and programmes outlined in official guidelines for enhancing breastfeeding rates. When it comes to specific indicators on infant and young child feeding (IYCF) policies and programmes as well as practices, India scores only 78 out of 150, a marginal improvement from the 74 points it scored in the last assessment in 2012.

Countries such as Afghanistan (99/150), Bangladesh (107.5/150) and Sri Lanka (129/150) have fared far better than India in their breastfeeding promotion scores. Aggressive promotion of baby foods by companies, lack of support to women in the family and at work places, inadequate healthcare support, and weak overall policy and programmes were some of the reasons identified by the report contributing to lack of improvement in infant and young child feeding practice indicators, experts point out. The WHO has identified ‘poor infant feeding’ as a risk factor for the survival of the child, contributing to neonatal deaths.

Arun Gupta, Regional Coordinator, International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) ASIA, Central Coordinator, BPNI rued the missed opportunities to actualise potentially easy gains in improving infant nutrition. “These missed opportunities reflect the failure of key decision makers in giving infant and young child feeding issues priority and due attention,” he said. He further questioned as to why only 44 per cent of women are able to begin breastfeeding within one hour of giving birth, when more than 75 per cent institutional deliveries have been claimed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his ‘Global Call to Action Summit 2015’ speech on August 27 in New Delhi.

The report lists among India’s policy failures, IYCF guidelines not being converted into official government policy, non-functioning of the ‘Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative’ programme for over a decade, non-review of the maternity benefit laws, neglecting infant feeding in its disaster management programmes, infrequency of surveys and the paucity of national data. Other key indicators for breastfeeding promotion, including implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and Mother Support & Community Outreach were also found lacking.

The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative is adapted from the World Health Organization (WHO) tool developed by IBFAN Asia for assessing and monitoring the state of implementation of the Global strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, currently being implemented in over 100 countries. Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) and Public Health Resource Network (PHRN) jointly coordinated the India Assessment 2015, between February and June 2015 using the revised WBTi 2014 tool.

This article has been corrected for a factual error.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 12:39:11 PM |

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