India still lags in breastfeeding, says report

India still lags in breastfeeding, says report

India has scored 45 out of 100 points on policy and programmes relating to breastfeeding promotion. Credit: India Science Wire
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launches programme with Rs 4.5 lakh for each district to promote breastfeeding.

About 15 million babies out of 26 million born every year in India are not able to get the benefit of mother’s milk within one hour of their births despite 80% of them being born in health facilities, according to a new breastfeeding assessment report released on Aug. 7.

The report was compiled by a consortium of public health groups and agencies, including government departments, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and UNICEF under the aegis of the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative and the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI).

India ranks 78 out of 97 nations when it comes to breastfeeding support services, says the report that is titled “Arrested Development”.

The report scores India on various indicators for breastfeeding promotion. India has scored 45 out of 100 points on policy and programmes relating to breastfeeding promotion. This is just one point higher than what it scored in 2015. The indicators covered include national policy, programmes and coordination, baby-friendly care and baby-friendly hospital initiatives, implementation of the international code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes, maternity protection, health and nutrition care system, mother support and community outreach, information support, infant feeding and HIV, infant and young child feeding during emergencies and mechanisms of monitoring and evaluation systems.

The international breastfeeding symbol.

“Countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are making remarkable progress on policy scores and have increased breastfeeding rates," says Dr Arun Gupta, Central Coordinator of BPNI. "Bangladesh, with a population of 16 crores, recently allocated $13 million for a 5-year plan focused on infant and young child feeding. India is lagging behind on most of the indicators.”

Dr Sila Deb, Deputy Commissioner, Child Health at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said: “We have gone through the report and are working closely in coordination with the agencies, which are part of this assessment. The ministry has also launched an exclusive programme on breastfeeding called ‘Mother’s Absolute Affection’ that for the first time has made an allocation of Rs 4.5 lakh per district to promote breastfeeding.”

The report also stressed the need to provide assistance to women to remove the barriers that they face in optimally feeding their babies. Dr Vandana Prasad, National Convener, Public Health Resource Network, says that major food brands and companies have stepped up their marketing and are aggressively promoting formula foods. Complementary food should not be encouraged by doctors or health professionals and proper regulation is equally important, she added.

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