Early Initiation Of Breastfeeding Declines In 12 States And Union Territories, Reveals NFHS-5 Report

Early Initiation Of Breastfeeding Declines In 12 States And Union Territories, Reveals NFHS-5 Report

NFHS-5 findings show a mixed trend in child feeding practices. 12 states and UTs have reported a significant decline in early initiation of breastfeeding but 16 states and UTs have shown an improvement in exclusive breastfeeding
Breastfeeding, News, Swasth India
- in Breastfeeding, News, Swasth India
Early Initiation Of Breastfeeding Declines In 12 States And Union Territories, Reveals NFHS-5 ReportAmong 22 states and UTs assessed in the first phase of NFHS-5, Sikkim has reported the sharpest decline of 33.5 per cent in initiating breastfeeding within one hour of birth

New Delhi: On December 13, Dr Hash Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare released the key findings of the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 for 22 states and Union Territories (UTs) included in the phase-1 of the survey. NFHS-5 findings show a worrying trend in child feeding practices. A significant decline has been reported in children under three years of age who are breastfed within one hour of birth. Breastfeeding, also known as nursing, is the way of providing young infants with the essential nutrients required for their growth and development. WHO (World Health Organization) recommends initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of the birth of a child. NFHS-5 data shows that among the children surveyed, breastfeeding in the first hour of birth had shown a downward trend in 12 states and UTs out of 22.

Also Read: Five Things To Know About Breastfeeding

Early Initiation Of Breastfeeding Declines In 12 States And Union Territories, Reveals NFHS-5 Report
NFHS-5 data shows that among the children surveyed, breastfeeding in the first hour of birth had shown a downward trend in 12 states and UTs out of 22

Among 22 states and UTs, Sikkim has reported the sharpest decline of 33.5 per cent in initiating breastfeeding within an hour of birth. Talking to NDTV about the importance of early initiation of breastfeeding, Dr. Shailesh Jagtap, Senior Technical and Program Advisor at Alive and Thrive, a global nutrition initiative, said,

Early Initiation of breastfeeding (EIBF) within one hour is the critical intervention as a right start to life. Evidence shows that it is more likely that mothers who were able to initiate breastfeeding within one hour are able to continue to breastfeed for a longer period and do exclusively breastfeeding till completion of 6 months with the infant getting the full benefit of the breastfeeding.

Colostrum, the bright yellowish, thick, first milk of the mother is rich in proteins and has anti-infective properties. Early initiation of breastfeeding ensures that the infant receives the colostrum. In a conversation with NDTV, Dr Suparna Ghosh – Jerath, Professor and Head Community Nutrition at Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH – Delhi), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), elaborated more on the role of breastfeeding. She said,

Early skin-to-skin contact with a mother makes infants interact more with their mothers and cry less; establish the bond between mother and child; prevents hypothermia in neonates; reduces mother’s risk of postpartum hemorrhage which is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. If we are not able to improve this crucial indicator, all the aforementioned benefits may get compromised and we may not able to optimally utilise a cost-effective and key initiative to address neonatal, infant and maternal morbidity and mortality.

Also Read: Importance Of Breastfeeding For Both Mother And Child

As per NFHS-5, over 50 per cent of the states and UTs surveyed in the first phase have reported a decline in early initiation of breastfeeding. Talking about the possible reasons behind this drop, Dr Jagtap listed three reasons and said,

The data tells us that on one side institutional delivery rates have significantly improved reaching the mark of around 90 percent and on other side, early initiation of breastfeeding (EIBF) has declined. This hints towards the health facility system being overwhelmed with increased load on the already heavily burdened facilities. Need to look into if these facilities are equipped with adequate staff and have the capacity to support mothers to initiate breastfeeding. Secondly, there is an increase in the C-section deliveries in both public and private health facilities wherein still the breastfeeding initiation guidelines of 4 hours after delivery may be being followed. Recently released joint statement cum guideline that EIBF can be initiated and is feasible within one hour by the Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Society of India (FOGSI) and Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) may not have still been brought into practice.

Stating the third reason, Dr Jagtap said still there is a practice of prelacteals feeds (foods given to newborns before breastfeeding) and bottle/formula feeding based on the myth that it will take some time for the mother’s milk to start.

Adding to this, Dr Arun Gupta, Senior Pediatrician and the central coordinator of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI), said the current trends show a failure to support women during pregnancy and at birth. He added,

Government has guidelines for lactation support staff but no link to budget to post these lactation staff. The government has an MAA (Mothers’ Absolute Affection) programme to promote breastfeeding in hospitals but it leaves out private hospitals. Moreover, this programme is not routinely monitored.

Also Read: Expert Blog: Five Superfoods Every Lactating Mother Should Consume

16 States And UTs Report Increase In Exclusive Breastfeeding

WHO also recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth. Along with essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin C, breastmilk has enough water as well. Therefore, breastfeeding can fulfill both the energy and water needs of a child for the first six months. After that, breastfeeding has to be supported with complementary feeding that involves the introduction of regular food and liquid meals till two years of birth.

The NFHS-5 data shows improvement in exclusive breastfeeding with 16 states and UTs reporting a rise. These include Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Bihar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Telangana and West Bengal.

Early Initiation Of Breastfeeding Declines In 12 States And Union Territories, Reveals NFHS-5 Report
NFHS-5 data shows improvement in exclusive breastfeeding with 16 states and UTs reporting a rise

Maharashtra has reported an increase of 14.4 in exclusive breastfeeding whereas Sikkim has recorded a decline of 26.3 per cent. Explaining the importance and benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, Dr Manish Kumar Singh, Secretary IAPSM (Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine), Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, said it benefits both mother and children. He added,

The newborn is not fully mature and many organ systems including the immune system are not fully developed. The newborn is prone to infections if anything other than a mother’s milk is given. Also, lack of breastfeeding or initiation of other food items in the first six months can result in the early onset of malnutrition and deaths. The vicious cycle of infection and malnutrition set in early resulting in mortality and morbidity.

Also Read: Breastfeeding – Its Importance And Challenges, First Time Parents Neha Dhupia And Angad Bedi Share Their Experiences

Dr Singh also noted that exclusive breastfeeding results in decreased episodes of illness in infants and results in lesser family expenditure on healthcare. It reduces post-delivery bleeding and anemia, delays next pregnancy, protects breast and ovarian cancer and protects women from obesity, he said.

NFHS-5 has also reported an increase in malnutrition especially obesity among children. According to the four experts NDTV spoke to, early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding till 6 months can aid in eliminating malnutrition. Dr Gupta said,

Consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with obesity and non-communicable diseases. Infant formula is an ultra-processed food.

Breastfeeding In India: The Way Forward

Exclusive breastfeeding has improved in India but early initiation of breastfeeding is still the need of the hour. As per the data shared by Dr Singh, initiation of breastfeeding within one hour has been found to reduce neonatal mortality by 22.3 per cent. He said,

Even initiation on the first day will reduce neonatal mortality by 16 per cent. Whereas, initiation of breastfeeding the second day onwards increases neonatal death by 2.4 fold. Introduction of other milk based foods and solid foods also increase neonatal death by 4 fold.

Also Read: Policy Makers Need To Focus On The First 1,000 Days Of Life: Experts React To NFHS-5 Survey Trends

When asked what is needed to promote breastfeeding in India, Dr Singh suggested reviewing case load on existing healthcare staff; addressing skill gap; training and sensitising staff at private facilities. He added,

Antenatal care (ANC) counseling on early initiation of breastfeeding is very important as it motivates the mother to initiate breastfeeding early and to seek help. Although the emphasis on at least 4 ANC visits has shown an improvement, the increase is not that substantial. Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) is a step in this direction. Further advocacy is desired on this issue.

Adding to this, Dr Suparna Ghosh-Jerath listed a couple of measures that need to be implemented at a national and state level to improve the status of breastfeeding. She recommended the implementation of baby-friendly hospital initiative (BFHI) and the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes and all subsequent relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions. She added,

Enforce paid family leave and maternity protection policies; improve access to skilled lactation support and counselling; strengthen links between health facilities and communities; track the progress of policies, programs, and funds toward achieving national and global breastfeeding targets.

Also Read: An Anganwadi Worker From Maharashtra Rows 14 km Daily To Provide Support To Expecting Mothers And Newborns

Dr Suparna Ghosh-Jerath also suggested effective implementation of the ten steps to successful breastfeeding in all maternity facilities. These 10 steps include supporting mothers to initiate and maintain breastfeeding and manage common difficulties; counselling mothers on the use and risks of feeding bottles, teats and pacifiers.

Dr Jagtap called for a taskforce or committee to monitor the adherence to IMS (Infant Milk Substitutes) Act by all the health functionaries for early initiation of breastfeeding.

Dr Gupta suggested a key policy change to encourage and support mothers to breastfeed their children. He said,

At community level or block Level, appoint 4 women nutrition and lactation counsellors who are technically competent to monitor growth from birth onwards, analyse the growth monitoring, detect early growth faltering that might happen at 3-4 months, counsel and support women on breastfeeding and complementary feeding after six months, follow up every baby. We must shift the gear from ad hoc approaches to coordinated ones; commit Rs. 300 per child born and ask for results. This way we can move away from lip service to breastfeeding, otherwise don’t expect wonders in NFHS-6.

Also Read: How Did This Chhattisgarh District Become The ‘Breastfeeding Champion’ Of The Country

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


Coronavirus has spread to 193 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 17,66,30,634 and 38,22,022 have died; 5,80,25,717 are active cases and 11,47,82,895 have recovered as on June 16, 2021 at 3:30 am.


2,96,33,105 62,224Cases
2,83,88,100 1,07,628Recovered
3,79,573 2,542Deaths
In India, there are 2,96,33,105 confirmed cases including 3,79,573 deaths. The number of active cases is 8,65,432 and 2,83,88,100 have recovered as on June 16, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

59,24,773 7,652

1,41,440 8,982

56,69,179 15,176

1,14,154 1,458


27,77,010 5,041

1,62,303 9,859

25,81,559 14,785

33,148 115


27,48,204 12,246

1,12,792 1,456

26,23,904 13,536

11,508 166

Tamil Nadu

23,78,298 11,805

1,25,215 11,669

22,23,015 23,207

30,068 267

Andhra Pradesh

18,20,134 5,741

75,134 4,879

17,32,948 10,567

12,052 53

Uttar Pradesh

17,03,207 270

7,221 890

16,74,072 1,104

21,914 56

West Bengal

14,68,044 3,268

20,046 1,125

14,30,949 2,068

17,049 75


14,31,498 228

3,078 148

14,03,569 364

24,851 12


9,88,172 609

11,717 943

9,63,113 1,544

13,342 8


9,50,133 172

5,619 848

9,35,658 1,006

8,856 14


8,59,526 3,405

44,358 3,436

8,11,780 6,799

3,388 42


8,21,078 352

8,884 658

8,02,187 1,006

10,007 4

Madhya Pradesh

7,88,649 224

3,610 331

7,76,424 528

8,615 27


7,66,357 228

3,703 374

7,53,584 564

9,070 38


7,17,949 410

4,360 412

7,04,075 813

9,514 9


6,06,436 1,556

19,933 528

5,82,993 2,070

3,510 14


5,89,153 628

10,802 1,111

5,62,701 1,691

15,650 48


4,66,590 3,415

41,184 475

4,21,378 2,906

4,028 34


3,43,793 184

2,646 416

3,36,058 596

5,089 4


3,37,449 274

3,642 266

3,26,822 515

6,985 25

Jammu And Kashmir

3,08,726 715

12,407 1,125

2,92,114 1,830

4,205 10

Himachal Pradesh

1,99,197 321

4,050 382

1,91,737 691

3,410 12


1,63,048 327

4,175 231

1,55,926 548

2,947 10


1,13,192 355

4,668 279

1,06,828 629

1,696 5


61,200 40

486 21

59,917 58

797 3


61,096 785

8,744 301

51,354 476

998 8


60,385 536

4,886 65

54,870 596

629 5


42,759 450

4,430 99

37,579 542

750 7

Arunachal Pradesh

31,938 290

2,849 40

28,934 326

155 4


23,854 101

2,972 229

20,423 327

459 3


19,649 38

552 20

18,898 57

199 1


18,659 209

3,239 67

15,136 273

284 3


15,899 268

3,637 45

12,191 312

71 1

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,473 9

61 2

10,408 7



9,297 61

484 36

8,768 96

45 1

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,280 11

105 4

7,049 15


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