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World Breastfeeding Week: Why Breastfeeding Is Important For Children And Mothers

In India, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted during 2019-21, the percentage of children under age six 6 months who are exclusively breastfed has increased from 54.9 per cent (2015-16) to 63.7 per cent now

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New Delhi: World Breastfeeding Week celebrated from August 1-7 aims to disseminate knowledge and information on breastfeeding and promote the practice of breastfeeding for both mother and child’s well-being. In India, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted during 2019-21, the percentage of children under age six 6 months who are exclusively breastfed has increased from 54.9 per cent (2015-16) to 63.7 per cent now. Breastfeeding children aged 6-23 months receiving an adequate diet has also seen an uptick from 8.7 per cent (2015-16) to 11.1 per cent. But this is not enough.

This World Breastfeeding Week, we speak with Dr. Tushar Parikh, Senior Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician at Motherhood Hospital in Pune to understand all about breastfeeding and the need to promote it.

Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Babies

Provides Nutrition: Breastmilk is basically a complete nutrition for the baby – it fulfills a child’s food and water requirement. A child who is on exclusive breastfeeding does not even need to take water for the first six months of life. And beyond that, we continue breastfeeding along with age-appropriate complimentary food items.

Better Intelligence: Babies who are breastfed have better intelligence than babies who are on alternative feeding because breastmilk has brain growth-promoting factors. 90 per cent of a baby’s brain development happens in the first 1,000 days of life (from the time of conception to the second birthday). Breast milk helps immensely during this time.

Also Read: Study Reveals Link Between Human Breast Milk Micronutrient And Brain Development In Newborns

Immuno-protective properties: A baby who’s breastfed does not fall sick as often. They have fewer ear infections, respiratory tract infections and gastrointestinal infections.

Less Allergies: Babies who are breastfed have fewer allergies because they are not exposed to foreign proteins like cow milk early on in their life. Exposure to foreign proteins in the first few months increases the risks of developing allergies easily. Therefore, these babies will have less eczema, asthma and allergic disorders.

Protection From Lifestyle Diseases: Breastfed babies have a reduced risk of childhood obesity and associated illnesses like insulin resistance, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia. A baby who’s breastfed is slightly leaner as compared to baby who’s on formula feed, and that is for the better.

Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Mothers

  • Breastfeeding aids mother and infant bonding.
  • During pregnancy, mothers tend to gain a lot of weight. But after delivery, breastfeeding helps in getting rid of that extra amount of fat and weight.
  • Initiating breastfeeding soon after a baby is born helps mothers in reducing blood loss and uterus involution.
  • Mothers have less chance of malignancies such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Also Read: World Breastfeeding Week: Mastitis, A Health Challenge Encountered By The Breastfeeding Mothers

Dos And Don’ts Of Breastfeeding

Avoid Pre-lacteal feeds: Before initiating breastfeeding, in certain communities, people tend to feed honey or any other substance to the child. Instead, the baby should be given colostrum, the milk which the mother produces in the first three days; it is a little thicker and yellow in colour and has more immune-protective properties. Colostrum prevents the baby from infections and should be fed within 30 minutes of birth.

Avoid Feeding Water In First Six Months: Some parents and families believe that you should give water along with breastmilk, especially during summer months to avoid dehydration. But breast milk can fulfill a child’s food and water requirement for the first six months of life.

Exclusive Breastfeeding And Complementary Feeding: While it is important to give only breastmilk for the first six months, age-appropriate complementary food should be introduced at six months. Annaprashan (first-rice eating ceremony) and other ceremonies involving the introduction of solids can be started after six months. Importantly, breastfeeding should be continued for up to two years.

Feeding preterm babies: Preterm babies also should be exclusively fed their own mother’s milk and even for them mother’s milk is sufficient. If the baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for some reason, keep on expressing the milk and give it to the baby.

Also Read: Women Shouldn’t Require Superpowers To Juggle Breastfeeding And Work: WHO

What Limits Women From Practising Breastfeeding?

There are a bunch of misconceptions about starting and continuing breastfeeding, and many of these are cultural factors.

Often parents believe that their child is underweight and they opt for milk supplement or formula feed to increase the weight of the child. For example, the average weight of a one-year-old child is about nine kgs. But if a child weighs 11 kgs and parents still think their baby is malnourished, they resort to formula feed and other food items. But remember, seeds of obesity, insulin resistance and hypercholesterolemia, which happens later on in life are sown in infancy.

Mothers and healthcare professionals require education about the proper method of breastfeeding. The latching, holding and position of the baby are very important.

Also Read: World Breastfeeding Week 2023: All About This Year’s Theme, History And Its Significance

You can listen to the full Banega Swasth India podcast discussion by hitting the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.

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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. 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 will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toiletsare 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 the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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