Making India a Breastfeeding- Friendly Nation: World Breastfeeding Week 2017

This World Breastfeeding Week 2017, the doctors at Apollo Cradle suggests measures for India to turn to be a breastfeeding-friendly nation. With government taking the first step to support women to breastfeed her baby through the recently passed maternity (amendment) bill, several gaps in terms of infrastructure and other social aspects prevent the nation to provide due support for breastfeeding.

It has been observed that even when other countries indicate a drop in breastfeeding, India has shown a steady increase in the count over the last few years. However, with the theme of this year’s breastfeeding week being “Sustaining breastfeeding together,” leading Pediatrician, Dr Sumana Rao from Apollo Cradle shares her thoughts on what more milestones India need to achieve to make the country “Breastfeeding-friendly.”

Breastfeeding has numerous health benefits to the babies as well as their mothers. It plays a role in making the immune system strong and reduces the risk of non communicable diseases later in life. Realizing its importance in the making of a healthy society, nations like Norway, Japan, Brazil, Peru etc have put in place several initiatives to ensure exclusive breastfeeding for infants within the first 6 months of their lives. Some countries need to work harder than others to convince and enable mothers to breastfeed. India has taken the first step through its recently passed maternity bill; the following could be additional measures to make breastfeeding easier for the women and the norm of the land

·         Doctorsand hospitals should strongly discourage young mothers from opting for infantformula or bottle-feeding friendly equipments offered by private firms

·         Lactationexperts and hospital staff should train mothers on breastfeeding before theyleave hospital after delivery

·         Expectantmothers should be encouraged to attend antenatal classes which will havebreastfeeding as one of its main focus areas. This will encourage women todevelop a positive attitude towards breastfeeding even before the baby’sarrival 

·         Womenshould be entitled to paid nursing breaks at workplace until their baby is 12months old

·         Builda nationwide network of human milk banks where breast milk is donated bylactating women by simply calling a milk bank courier. Mobile vans could besent to different localities and neighborhoods to collect breast milk

·         Establishlactation stations/free nursing homes in public spaces, parks, metro stations,super markets etc. that breastfeeding is a matter of convenience, for everymother of the land

·          Expectantmothers should be encouraged to attend antenatal classes which will havebreastfeeding as one of its main focus areas 

·         Educationalmaterials and free samples circulated by private firms which produce infantformula powder should be banned

·         Governmentof India/Ministry of Women and Child Development needs to make provisions forimplementation of the existing laws & policies, so that all women haveaccess to community based services on infant and young child feeding counseling

A mother should ideally initiate breastfeedingwithin the first hour of birth and exclusive breastfeeding (no water, otherfluids or foods) for 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding for 2 yearsto ensure the benefits of breastfeeding. This milk is rich in the nutrientsthat promote brain growth and nervous system development. Hence, it isconsidered the perfect first food to help a baby achieve every aspect of idealgrowth and development. With right initiatives taken to support breastfeeding,India can emerge to be a breastfeeding-friendly nation in no time.

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