Friday April 19, 2019

World Breastfeeding Week: Breast milk, the answer to malnutrition in children

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Baby-global

By Nithin Sridhar

“World Breastfeeding Week” is being celebrated throughout the world from 1-August till 7-August.

The practice of dedicating the first week of August to breastfeeding of children was started in 1992 by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and ever since it has been celebrated every year in collaboration with United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and other organizations and governments.

WABA was formed in 1991 with an aim to promote breastfeeding worldwide. Breastfeeding has a large number of benefits to both mothers and children. It being the natural method of providing nutrition to children, is better than other kinds of feeding like formula feeding, especially in early months. Breastfeeding is especially effective in fighting malnutrition problems in children under 5-years of age, especially in developing and under developed countries.

Breastfeeding prevents malnutrition in children under 5-years of age

Mother carrying her child and weight on her head

Malnutrition is very much prevalent in India. According to NHFS 3 (2005-2006), 48% children of under 5-years are stunted, 19.8% of children are wasted (i.e. too thin with regard to their height) and 43% were underweight.

One of the best methods to fight malnutrition among under 5-years children is through breastfeeding. The Dadhich report quotes NHFS-3 statistics that show that the practice of breastfeeding the child within one hour of its birth is only 24.5% in India. The exclusive breastfeeding rates in children up to six months age is also just 46.4%.

If breastfeeding rates of both initiation within half or one hour of birth and exclusive feeding till 6 months are increased, there will be a definite decrease in malnutrition. The Dachich report illustrates the statistics from Lancet series to illustrate this. The Lancet series on child survival and new born survival has summarized that by achieving a 90% coverage in exclusive breastfeeding, around 13-15 percent of malnutrition deaths in under 5-years children, in the poor countries can be prevented.

Another report states: “Suboptimum breastfeeding, especially non-exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life, results in 1·4 million deaths and 10% of disease burden in children younger than 5 years.”

Therefore, India should attempt to double its exclusive breastfeeding rates, so that malnutrition can be effectively countered. Apart from fighting Malnutrition, breastfeeding has many health benefits for the babies as well.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breast milk is very vital for the growth of infants as they contain all the essential nutrients that are required by the baby. Ideally, the first breastfeed must be done within half an hour of the birth and exclusive breastfeeding must be carried out till the baby becomes 6-months old. Early initiation of breastfeeding is crucial as “colostrum” or the first milk contains various proteins, minerals, vitamins and antibodies that protects the child against diseases.

Breast milk is also easy to digest for the babies. Apart from this, breastfeeding helps to create a bond between the mother and the child and also reduces the risk of breast cancer in mothers.

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Breastfeeding also affects childhood intelligence and adult health. Children who were breastfed in their childhood are better protected against obesity, hypertension, and diabetes in their adult life. Therefore, various medical organizations including the WHO advice people to practice breastfeeding.

In 2014, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its member countries, while considering the reports submitted by India, advised India to: “Enhance efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding practices, including breastfeeding from birth, complementary feeding strategies, with or without provisionof food supplements, as well as micronutrient interventions for mothers; ensure the effective implementation of, and compliance with, the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (WHO, 1981); put in place a monitoring and reporting system to identify violations of the Code and take stringent measures in all situations of violations of the Code, which include the promotion and distribution of infant formula samples and promotional materials by private-sector companies involved in the marketing and distribution of infant formula.”

Therefore, the government, NGOs and the people must join hands in promoting and supporting breastfeeding practices that will in-turn lead to a reduction in malnutrition among children.

 

 

  • Breast Milk is rightly called Lovebiotic for the infants! Babies are born to be breast-fed.

    • Jagdish Kumar Bhutani

      And the biological bonding, the act of breastfeeding creates is divine and eternal.

Next Story

New York City’s Mandatory Measles Vaccination Order Stands Still

The health department's lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.

In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.

The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.

Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.

The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons, or cite concerns — debunked by medical science — that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.

The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.

He also dismissed assertions in the petition disputing the “clear and present danger” of the outbreak. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” the judge said.

FILE PHOTO: A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019.
A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019. VOA

Secret identities

The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine.

The court challenge was brought in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court by five people identified only as parents living in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect their children’s’ privacy, their lawyers said.

In court on Thursday, they told Knipel the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”

The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine. Pixabay

The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak.

Also Read: Short-Circuit Likely The Cause of Notre Dame Fire, Claims Police Investigators

The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week. (VOA)