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Breastfeeding to help curb IMR in India

Jul 31, 2017

Post-delivery, a mother’s first initiative should be to establish a memorable skin to skin contact, writes Dr Dr Preeti Gangan.

New Delhi: During pregnancy, a woman not only enjoys motherhood but is also apprehensive about developing a strong bond with the baby. She undergoes proper routine check-ups and has a balanced diet so that the baby is healthy. She plans and organizes her routine schedules to spend maximum time nursing her baby. However, all these efforts are in vain, if the early skin to skin contact isn’t recognized.

The start of 2017 saw the WCD Ministry encouraging mothers to exclusively breastfeed through their MAA programme and Stanpan Suraksha mobile application. While the mothers are well-versed with the advantages of the benefits of breastmilk but still there is a segment of mothers who don’t opt for exclusive breastfeeding the first six months.

Post-delivery, a mother’s first initiative should be to establish a memorable skin to skin contact, which is initiating breastfeeding in the first hour. This first hour breastfeeding practice is an integral aspect of motherhood and all mothers should practice it for their baby’s healthy start.

According to an online survey conducted by Medela, a research-based company that provides breastfeeding solutions to mothers around the world, only 33 per cent mothers initiate breastfeeding in the first hour – which is regarded as the most crucial time to breastfeed a child. This percentage clearly indicates that women in India don’t opt for first hour breastfeeding due to lack of awareness, pain in breastfeeding practice and health issues.

Exclusive breast feeding is ideal nutrition and sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life. Despite its well-known benefits, the facts reported on breastfeeding practice in India are not very encouraging. Breastfeeding in its initial days is painful and the fact is many women don’t practice first hour breastfeeding. But this pain has a lot of rewards in return for babies and mothers also.

Feeding mother’s milk or colostrum in the first hour gives baby a healthy start to fight against malnutrition and common infections later in life. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illnesses.

Breastfeeding in the first hour also confers benefits to the mother, such as improved lactation and less loss of blood. Numerous studies from around the world have shown that stomach viruses, lower respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and meningitis occur less often in breastfed babies. Exclusive breastfeeding (meaning no solid food, formula or water) for at least six months seems to offer the most protection.

Experts are of the opinion that initiating breastfeeding within an hour of delivery could reduce neo-natal mortality as it protects the babies from various kinds of infections. Indulging in exclusive breastfeeding for first six months result in stronger immunity for life and even leads to sound physical, mental and emotional development of the baby.

Breast milk's protection against illnesses last beyond your baby's breastfeeding stage, too. Diarrhoea, the third leading cause of childhood mortality in India, is responsible for 13 per cent of all deaths/year in children under 5 years of age. Breastfeeding is the simplest and the cheapest intervention to prevent child deaths occurring from diarrhoea.

An exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child, and breastfeeding has been shown to drastically reduce deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea, two major child killers.

Breast milk’s nutritional value is unparalleled and should be the only dietary intake for a child for the first six months.

Dr Preeti Gangan is an MBBS, DCH and IBCLC certified lactation consultant. She is also a member of Medela LC Club.

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