‘Wealthy nations need to encourage breastfeeding’

Namrata Devikar
Tuesday, 24 July 2018

India being a middle income country, around 95.5 per cent babies are breastfed

Pune: In a report recently published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), it was found that in low and middle income countries, four per cent babies are never breastfed. 

However, in high income countries, 21 per cent of babies never get breast milk. A further analysis of data showed that in low and 
middle income countries, the small percentage of mothers, who do not breastfeed, come from wealthier households. 

However, evidence suggests that in high income countries, it is mothers from poorer households, who are less likely to breastfeed.

The report is based on the analysis of data from 123 countries around the world. 

Whereas India being a middle income country, around 95.5 per cent babies are breastfed.

The UNICEF report states that improving breastfeeding rates around the world could save the lives of over 8,20,000 children under age five every year and save 87 per cent children, who are under six months.

Speaking to Sakal Times, Dr Ramesh Bhosale, a gynaecologist from the Sassoon General Hospital (SGH), said breastfeeding has a lot of positive impact on the child as well as the mother.

“It not only boosts immunity of the child but also helps in its brain development. Moreover, the mother-child bond is further strengthened. The milk keeps the child healthy. With proper guidance, mothers can also be motivated to donate breast milk. Hence, we have also set up a milk bank for infants,” said Dr Bhosale.

He added that mothers who undergo cesarean need a different technique to breastfeed as well as lots of motivation.

“It is a misconception that mothers who undergo C-section cannot breastfeed. The technique is different but every mother should try and breastfeed as that milk is very healthy for the child,” said Dr Bhosale.

Speaking to Sakal Times, Dr Nina Mansukhani from Jehangir Hospital said breastfeeding becomes a problem for many working women.

“Many women in the urban set up have a job. The maternity leave does not last for a long time. So, breastfeeding becomes complicated. There are also fewer places, where women feel comfortable to give milk. However, there is certainly more awareness about breastfeeding in India, resulting in many women preferring breastfeeding these days,” said Dr Mansukhani.

The report also emphasises that breastfeeding is not only important for the child but also for the mother as studies have shown that breastfeeding protects mothers against post-partum haemorrhage, postpartum depression, ovarian and breast cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that improving breastfeeding rates could prevent an additional 20,000 maternal deaths from breast cancer.

The report suggests that it has been found that combined implementation of pro-breastfeeding interventions within health systems and the community have the potential to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates by 2.5 times. 

In countries like India and Vietnam, governments have been successful in protecting breastfeeding through the implementation of supportive policies guaranteeing at least six months’ paid maternity leave and have put in place strong legislation regulating the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and bottles.

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