The Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India(BPNI)
is spearheading action on 20th World Breastfeeding Week.
Come 1-7 August. Communities around the world are working
hard to bring back ‘Breastfeeding Culture’.
India began measuring breastfeeding rates in 1992-93,
when the first NFHS took place in the country, and since
then several surveys have revealed that Indian rates
of breastfeeding are stagnant. What does that mean?
Out of 26 million babies born 20 million are not able
to practice optimal feeing guidelines as recommended
by the Government of India and the World Health organization.
But there is a bit of Silver lining – rates are
not falling as they were during 70s and 80s –
that’s a gain India has made. But should India
design efforts to increase the breastfeeding rates?
Answer could be a ‘Yes’ as exclusive breastfeeding
during the first 6 months not only highly increases
the chances of survival of a baby but it also ends up
giving the baby a ‘head start’ as the brain
develops faster during the first year of life.
Baby food industry may want it otherwise by aggressively
promoting the alternatives of mother’s milk as
well as homemade complementary foods for children for
6 months to 24 months. India has had a policy for 20
years the Infant Milk Substitutes Feeding Bottles, and
Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution)
Act 1992, and Amendment Act 2003.(IMS Act)- but it needs
to effectively enforced. We no longer see the bubbly-
chubby babies on TV or print ads, thanks to the law.
However baby food industry still needs to be checked
effectively in order to increase rates of optimal feeding
guidelines. That’s why the WBW 2012 builds on
‘Babies need Mom Made not Man Made’.
Indian Policy should go all out to support ALL women
during first two years of life- the stated focus of
the newly restructured ICDS programme of 1.25 lac crores,
it needs to look at how mothers and babies can be together
for at least first six months in all homes whether poor
India’s policy needs to be coherent when it comes
to Health System support to breastfeeding women. Having
JSY, the Janani Suraksha Yojana should ensure that all
women can begin breastfeeding within one hour. Private
Hospitals routinely offer formula to new born babies
and people think its ‘modern’. That must
stop may be by a law.
A uniform policy of building a better skilled health
care work force is needed to enable them to help and
support women at both at birth and later, in the health
facility as well as at family level. “Government
can take a call on this and universalise access to skilled
counselling, the proven and tested method to increase
breastfeeding rates”, said Dr. MMA Faridi, Head
Dept. Pediatrics UCMS & GTB Hospital Delhi. He Further
said it requires investment of resources both human
and financial for breastfeeding to improve social and
health status if the nation.
Indian policy on maternity protection needs a careful
look at what is being done. While Central Government
employees get 6 month paid maternity leave and 2 years
of child care leave, what about the rest 90% moms who
work in non government sector?
What can the Government do? Dr Arun Gupta, member of
the Prime Ministers’ Council on India’s
Nutrition Challenges tells “Get a policy on Breastfeeding
and Infant and Young Child Feeding in place, along a
‘Plan of Action’ and attached budget line
both in NRHM and ICDS. When you begin tracking your
money it works.”
The World Breastfeeding Week is an opportunity that
the National and State governments should capture and
make the most out of it. The World Breastfeeding Conference
with the tagline ‘Babies Need Mom Made Not Man
Made’ is being held in New Delhi, India, from
6th - 9th December 2012. We invite you to participate
in this Global event and we hope it will encourage you
to step forward to actively support the cause. You can
find the detailed information on all aspects of the
conference at: http://www.worldbreastfeedingconference.org.