New Delhi, August 2, 2017: August 1-7 is celebrated as World Breastfeeding Week. True, breastfeeding will lower chances of infant mortality and provide needed nutrition for babies, along with important immunity. Doctors have long propagated the importance of breastfeeding. Now which mother would not want the best for her baby?
WHO recommends breastfeeding for six months after birth. However, this comes as a daunting challenge for working mothers.
According to the Medela Breastfeed India Survey 2017, various factors are at play that are un-accommodating of this practice for a working woman, which include lack of extended maternity leave, unsuitable pumping practices and environment at the workplace, absence of crèches, breastfeeding information and minimal support, thus forcing them to make a choice between the role of a mother and that of a professional.
Fact remains that most working lactating mothers are breastfeeding their babies for the first three months and then shifting to formula based food because of the absence of time. It is also widely believed by working mothers that pumping and storing milk is not just a burdensome but unsafe practice, which is why the practice is rarely taken up once they begin work again.
Indian women popularly believe that using breast pumps will be unsafe for the baby. Wikimedia
While it cannot be denied that working mothers have a number of issues which can possibly prevent them from continuing to breastfeed, what must not be ignored is the fact that babies cannot miss their first breastfeed after birth. Colostrum, or the first milk, is a sticky, thick, and yellow transparent fluid and is touted as the first (and the most crucial) vaccine for the baby. This milk transfers antibodies and fighter cells from the mother to the newborn and provides protection against all types of diseases and allergies.
Despite the importance of breastfeeding, it has been observed in India that it is not initiated in the first hour following the birth of the baby.
According to the Medela survey, 36% of new lactating mothers from Maharashtra give formula feed to their babies in the first hour immediately following birth. The study further shows that around 27% mothers fed babies with formula feed on the doctor's recommendation.
This brings to light the important role that caregivers play in encouraging and creating awareness about advantages of breastfeeding.
Breast milk is the best for the baby, the benefits of which extend well beyond merely feeding and nutrition. "WHO recommends babies should be exclusively breastfed for first six months of life and continue up to two years or beyond", believes Dr. Ravneet Joshi, MD (Paediatrics) IBCLC at Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru.
Colostrum is all the needed nutrition for newborns. Breastfeeding not only improves the health of infants and young children significantly but also improves mental and cognitive development and promotes learning as well. Studies have shown that it is not only beneficial for the baby, but for the mother too. The experience is not just satisfying but also empowering for the mother.
In the prevailing scenario, there is an immediate need to revive the breastfeeding culture, making mothers understand the importance of Colostrum, and about the chance of bonding with the child emotionally.
The annual World Breastfeeding Week aims to emphasize that breastfeeding is not just a woman's issue or sole responsibility; instead, it must be shared by all as it affects the planet and its people.
The global focus of World Breastfeeding Week 2017 is aligned with the UN Sustainable Goals (SDGs) with a focus on four thematic areas :
For the same reason, efforts are being made in India and the world alike,
While Indian figures from the Medela survey are alarming, the situation is not uniform throughout the world.
Dr. Munish Kumar Raizada, a Board-Certified Neonatologist in Chicago, in conversation with NewsGram said, "In USA, for example, breastfeeding rates are improving. As per CDC data, in 2011, 79% of the newborn babies started to breastfeed while in 2013, this rate improved to 81%. Approximately 52% babies were still breastfeeding at six months of age."
He believes that while there are positive signs, the society, and the world in turn, needs to fight the menace of artificial milk formula while also facilitating a change in the cultural attitude and stigma associated with breastfeeding.
Following its awareness, the advantages of breastfeeding are being discussed worldwide,
– by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala
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