Most babies not breastfed in their first hour

The report lays onus on breastfeeding newborns within the first hour of their birth.  

As many as 6 out of 10 babies born in the country are not able to begin breastfeeding within one hour of birth despite an improvement in institutional deliveries due to a lack of supportive work environment, inadequate skills of health care providers as well as caesarean deliveries, according to a new report made public on Tuesday.

First milk

Mother’s breast milk within one hour of birth ensures that the infant receives the colostrum or first milk, which is rich in protective factors. The WHO and UNICEF also recommend exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to the age of six months and thereafter complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.

The 5th Report of Assessment of India’s Policy and Programmes on Breastfeeding and Infant and Young Child Feeding in 2018 also gives India a score of 45 out of 100 on 10 parameters under the category of policy and programmes. However, India performs better in terms of infant and young child feeding practices scoring 34 out of 50 on five parameters.

The report has been prepared by a national consortium of public health groups and agencies including government departments, AIIMS and UNICEF, under the aegis of World Breastfeeeding Trends Initiative (WBTI).

Early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth is 41.5%, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is 54.9%, inclusion of complementary feeding between 6-8 months is 42.7% and adequate complementary feeding and minimum acceptable diet among 6-23 months children is as low as 9.6%, the report cites data from NFHS-4.

Inching forward

India has made some progress over the years and between National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-3 and NFHS-4, early initiation of breastfeeding has improved from 23.4% to 41.5% children breastfed within one hour of birth.

This hasn’t kept pace with the stark increase in institutional deliveries which more than doubled during the same period, from 38.7 % to 78.9%.