New Delhi: The Union health ministry on Thursday said there has been a significant improvement in breastfeeding rates across the country and a programme has been launched to raise awareness about its benefits among the masses, especially mothers.
An official statement said the ministry also recently released the “National Guidelines on Lactation Management Centres in Public Health Facilities”, facilitating the setting up of these centres for ensuring that sick and pre-term babies are fed safe human breast milk.
The statement said the trend of breastfeeding has shown an upward trend.
“As per recent data, initial breastfeeding has been nearly doubled in last decade – from 23.4 per cent to 41.6 per cent (NFHS-3, 2005-06 and 4, 2015-16),” it said.
Significant improvement has also been reported for exclusive breastfeeding as proportion of children under age 6 months exclusively breastfed, has gone up to 54.9 (NFHS-4) per cent from 46.4 per cent (NFHS-3).
“However, there is further scope of improving initial breastfeeding rates considering the high proportion of institutional deliveries in the country,” it added.
Breastfeeding Week is observed in the first week of August to focus attention on the promotion and support of breastfeeding. This year’s theme is ‘Sustaining Breastfeeding’.
The health ministry has planned various activities at the national level during this week in association with Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) and the RML hospital, it said.
The key components of the Mothers Absolute Affection (MAA) programme launched by the ministry are awareness generation, promotion of breastfeeding and inter-personal counselling at community level, skilled support for breastfeeding at delivery points along with monitoring and recognition of health facilities.
ASHA workers are incentivised for reaching out to pregnant and lactating mothers and provide information on benefits and techniques of successful breastfeeding.
Around 23 states have started implementing various activities under the programme such as one day sensitisation of health staffs, Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) training of staffs at health facilities, communication activities using mass media and mid-media.
Around 2.5 lakh ASHAs and 40,000 health staffs have been sensitised for breastfeeding promotion strategies under the programme. Around 2,800 health facility staffs (MOs, SNs and ANMs) have been trained in four days’ IYCF training, the statement said.
Breastfeeding within an hour of birth could prevent 20 per cent of newborn deaths. Infants who are not breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pnuemonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhoea than children who are exclusively breastfed. These two are leading causes of death in children aged under five years.
Children who were not breastfed are also at an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, allergies, asthma, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome among others. Apart from mortality and morbidity benefits, breastfeeding also has tremendous impact on improved IQ.