Marking a threefold rise in access to breastmilk as per the latest data by the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS), a 17 per cent increase has been recorded in the past decade in breastfeeding rates in Haryana.
The state is nudging its way to better access to breastmilk for infants under 6 months, with 50 per cent of children in Haryana are exclusively breastfed. This marks an increase of around 17 per cent since the last NFHS survey in 2005-06.
“Breast Milk is the lifeline of a newborn since it is rich in essential nutrients that builds the child’s immunity and promotes sensory and cognitive development. It is the ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants and no formula food can substitute it. Apart from the child, breastfeeding has important benefits for the health of mothers,” says Dr. Sachin Jain, Consultant Neonatologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon.
Starting within one hour of birth, a child can be breastfed until the age of 2 years. In Gurgaon, 60 per cent of children under age 6 months are exclusively breastfed while 60 per cent children under age 3 years are breastfed within one hour of birth, the NFHS data states.
As per World Health Organization, if every child is breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding with other food up to the age of two years, about 220,000 child lives would be saved every year.”
WHO recommends that infants start receiving complementary foods at 6 months of age in addition to breast milk, initially 2-3 times a day between 6 and 8 months, increasing to 3-4 times daily between 9 and 11 months and 12-24 months with additional nutritious snacks offered 1-2 times per day, as desired.
“Breastfeeding children within an hour of their birth allows them access to colostrum, the first of breast milk that is rich in antibodies. With adequate breastfeeding, children develop better immunity against diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia and anemia,” says Dr. Sachin.
In fact, a UN report states that one lakh children in India die every year due to diseases that could have been prevented by exclusive breastfeeding in first six months and continued breastfeeding thereafter.2
Breast milk is rich in prebiotic human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) which are structurally complicated sugar molecules unique to human breast milk and helps in the development of the infant gut microbiota that ensures immunity against allergic diseases. The HMOs are the third most abundant solid component in human milk after lactose and fat. Scientific evidence supports the importance of breastfeeding practices that reduce child mortality and morbidity, malnutrition, and non-communicable diseases. Breastfeeding allows children to fight ear infections, pneumonia, stomach viruses and diarrhea, lymphoma, leukemia, Crohn’s disease, asthma, eczema, diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Breastfeeding is beneficial for mothers as well since it helps them to lose weight faster. In fact, a mother who breastfeeds her child can lose as much as 1000 calories a day. Those who breastfed their child have a lower risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer as well as heart disease or osteoporosis.
To promote breastfeeding among mothers, India has enacted the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods Act, (IMS Act) 2003 that regulates production, supply and distribution of infant milk substitutes. Besides, milk banks of human donor milk have come up in Mumbai and New Delhi and are being set up in other metro cities.
However, there are several other barriers to breastfeeding children including ignorance of benefits of breastfeeding, improper advice from friends and family leading to supplement breast milk with formula, lack of support for working mothers from employers in providing environment conducive for breastfeeding, and lack of trained health workers who can guide new mothers about the right techniques of breastfeeding.
No one can deny the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the well-being of both the infant and the mother. Thus, here are a few exclusive breast feeding tips to do it right.
· After the baby is born make sure that you breastfeed your baby within the first hour
· Do not give your baby any supplements or even water for the first 6 months
· Breastfeed the baby on demand and as often the baby wants it
· Even at night the baby should be breastfed. Co-sleeping with the baby will help with this
· It is advised to keep your baby away from artificial nipples and pacifiers to prevent nipple confusion
· At the hospital make it clear to the doctor and nurses that you are keen on nursing exclusively
· If you are a working mother and returning to work, you can also exclusively breastfeed by pumping breast milk during the day, storing it in a clean container and asking the care giver to feed the baby in a palada. Continue breastfeeding at night.
· Even if you have twins the breast can produce enough milk for both babies