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World Breastfeeding Week: Babies need Mom

Aug 01, 2012

Beginning today, the world will converge for one week to revive the culture of breast feeding. In India, the campaign for the 20th World Breastfeeding Week is being led by The Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India with the slogan ‘Babies need Mom’.

The focus this week will be on getting the world to embrace the culture of breastfeeding with renewed passion.

The world is coming together for a week from today on to revive the culture of breast feeding. In India the campaign through the 20th World Breastfeeding Week is being led by The Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI).

Since 1992-93 when India started recording breastfeeding data, the percentage of suckling babies has remained stagnant. This means that out of 26 million babies born annually 20 million are deprived of optimal feeing guidelines as defined by the Government of India and the WHO. The silver lining: The rates are not following the declining trend of the 70s and 80s. But much more needs to be done. This is because breast-fed babies are not just more likely to survive; they literally get a ‘head’-start over others as the brain develops the fastest in the first year of life.

Although India has had a law to deter the promotion of mother’s-milk substitutes by the baby food industry for 20 years, enforcement needs to be more stringent. Sure, owing to the law, we no longer see ads showing bubbly infants suckling on feeding bottles. But the baby food industry still needs to be closely watched. That’s why the WBW 2012 campaign has adopted ‘Babies need Mom’ as its theme. 

Mom-made not man-made

India needs a policy that supports all women through the first two years of their babies’ lives; this in fact is the stated focus of the newly restructured Rs 1.25-lakh-crore ICDS programme. Mothers need to be with their babies for at least first six months after birth in all homes. A policy supporting a coherent health system such as the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) should help women start breastfeeding within an hour of delivery. Private Hospitals often offer ‘formula’ to new-born babies as a modern alternative. This has to be stopped, if necessary by law.

The objective of policy should be to raise a health care work force that is adequately skilled to offer pre- and post-natal support to women. “Government can take a call on this and universalise access to skilled counselling, the proven and tested method to increase breastfeeding rates,” says Dr. MMA Faridi, Head Dept. Paediatrics UCMS & GTB Hospital Delhi. Indian policy on maternity protection needs a re-look. While Central Government employees get six months of paid maternity leave and two years of child care leave, the fact is that 90 per cent of working moms in India are employed in the non-government sector. What about them?

What can the Government do? Dr Arun Gupta, member of the Prime Ministers’ Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges says: “Get a policy on Breastfeeding and Infant and Young Child Feeding in place, along with a ‘Plan of Action’ supported by a budget. When you begin tracking your money it works.”


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