This World Breastfeeding Week 2017, the doctors at Apollo Cradle suggests measures for India to turn to be a breastfeeding-friendly nation. With government taking the first step to support women to breastfeed her baby through the recently passed maternity (amendment) bill, several gaps in terms of infrastructure and other social aspects prevent the nation to provide due support for breastfeeding.
It has been observed that even when other countries indicate a drop in breastfeeding, India has shown a steady increase in the count over the last few years. However, with the theme of this year’s breastfeeding week being “Sustaining breastfeeding together,” leading Pediatrician, Dr Sumana Rao from Apollo Cradle shares her thoughts on what more milestones India need to achieve to make the country “Breastfeeding-friendly.”
Breastfeeding has numerous health benefits to the babies as well as their mothers. It plays a role in making the immune system strong and reduces the risk of non communicable diseases later in life. Realizing its importance in the making of a healthy society, nations like Norway, Japan, Brazil, Peru etc have put in place several initiatives to ensure exclusive breastfeeding for infants within the first 6 months of their lives. Some countries need to work harder than others to convince and enable mothers to breastfeed. India has taken the first step through its recently passed maternity bill; the following could be additional measures to make breastfeeding easier for the women and the norm of the land.
- Doctors and hospitals should strongly discourage young mothers from opting for infant formula or bottle-feeding friendly equipments offered by private firms
- Lactation experts and hospital staff should train mothers on breastfeeding before they leave hospital after delivery
- Expectant mothers should be encouraged to attend antenatal classes which will have breastfeeding as one of its main focus areas. This will encourage women to develop a positive attitude towards breastfeeding even before the baby’s arrival
- Women should be entitled to paid nursing breaks at workplace until their baby is 12 months old
- Build a nationwide network of human milk banks where breast milk is donated by lactating women by simply calling a milk bank courier. Mobile vans could be sent to different localities and neighborhoods to collect breast milk
- Establish lactation stations/free nursing homes in public spaces, parks, metro stations, super markets etc. that breastfeeding is a matter of convenience, for every mother of the land
- Expectant mothers should be encouraged to attend antenatal classes which will have breastfeeding as one of its main focus areas
- Educational materials and free samples circulated by private firms which produce infant formula powder should be banned
- Government of India/Ministry of Women and Child Development needs to make provisions for implementation of the existing laws & policies, so that all women have access to community based services on infant and young child feeding counseling
A mother should ideally initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and exclusive breastfeeding (no water, other fluids or foods) for 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding for 2 years to ensure the benefits of breastfeeding. This milk is rich in the nutrients that promote brain growth and nervous system development. Hence, it is considered the perfect first food to help a baby achieve every aspect of ideal growth and development. With right initiatives taken to support breastfeeding, India can emerge to be a breastfeeding-friendly nation in no time.