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Men too are responsible for breastfeeding: experts

Aug 08, 2013

Experts at a UNICEF event in New Delhi highlighted the role men could play in encouraging breastfeeding at their homes.

New Delhi: Breastfeeding is not the sole responsibility of a mother and men too should participate for ensuring the promotion of breastfeeding, said Mrinal Pande, Chairperson, Prasar Bharati. She was speaking at an event here organised by UNICEF to celebrate the work of women from the remote regions of India, who have been working to support mothers in breastfeeding.

“I am really inspired listening to this group of women who have been able to do so much for their communities amidst several obstacles. Given that India has rich traditions, it is always very effective to weave messages around breastfeeding through traditional ceremonies and by involving elders in the family. These women have been able to leverage this effectively,” Pande said.

Dr Victor Aguayo, Chief of UNICEF India’s Child Nutrition and Development Programme, highlighting the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months said that it not only has a positive impact on the development of brain but also makes a child school ready.

“The women champions have been able to overcome challenges and reached out to mothers and their families in their homes, their communities, with correct breastfeeding information and support, at times when they needed it most.”

Community champions (members of ‘mother support groups and frontline health and nutrition workers) from different states of India including Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand shared their experiences on community and facility based counseling. The champions reached the unreached pockets with the help of mass media and educated mothers and other family members abut the importance of breastfeeding.

Uzma Arshi Qureshi, a breastfeeding counsellor from Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, said that mother’s milk is every child’s right. Sharing her experience of working in a tribal belt, she said that if the benefits of breastfeeding are explained in monetary terms, even the male members of the family would be eager to encourage this practice and play their role in share the responsibility of breastfeeding.

‘I have prevented more than 100 families from following the traditional practice of giving honey to their newborns immediately after birth. I have been able to convince the families and ensured that every child gets mother’s first milk,” Uzma said.

“Early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding still remains a challenge. The message should be that breastfeeding is best feeding”, she adds.

Kalpana Vishwakarma, talking about the difficulties in communicating about breastfeeding in Lalitpur, a backward district of Uttar Pradesh, said that sometimes people become aggressive when they sense a threat to their age old practices.

Shobhna Patel, who is associated with AMUL cooperative and works for the promotion of breastfeeding in the tribal dominated district of Valsad in Gujarat, said that it was never easy to convince people to abandon age-old myths that are harmful to the health of the mother and the child. Through her unrelenting efforts, Shobhna ensured that young mothers stop following practices like feeding the newborn honey or sugar and convinced them about the health benefits of colostrum - mother’s first milk.

“Since I am a part of the Vasudhara Dairy Cooperative which helps women take care of their cows and get loans, women trust me. Certain practices like washing hands before breastfeeding and feeding the baby half an hour after birth must be followed”, explains Shobhna.

Dr Prashant Gangal who represented Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI), said that it was high time that men too started taking active interest in promoting breastfeeding.

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