Despite the proven benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and baby, a new research has revealed that only 39 per cent of mothers in India initiated breastfeeding in the first hour of the birth of their babies.
The study was conducted by Medela India, a company offering breast milk feeding products to nursing mothers, as part of its campaign to raise awareness on the importance of nutrition for good health to mark the National Nutrition Week from from 1st -7th September.
In India, malnutrition claims one out of three lives among children under five. A large majority of these deaths are attributed to inappropriate feeding practices during the initial years of life.
According to the Medela study, 46 per cent of deaths in children under five years of age occur in the neo-natal period, and breastfeeding in the first hour can reduce the risk of neo-natal deaths by 33 per cent.
This is because breast milk is the child’s first source of nutrition and immunity, protecting them from various diseases such as diarrhoea, respiratory infection, sepsis, omphalitis, hypothermia, weight loss, and malnutrition.
The study further showed that over 30 per cent of mothers fed their babies with formula milk immediately after birth highlighting the fact that a large majority of Indian mothers do not engage in the act of breastfeeding to provide the first and best nutrition for their babies.
Nutrition is integral to survival, health and development for current and succeeding generations. Breastfeeding is a healthy start for laying a strong foundation in the initial years as breast milk provides the energy and nutrients that an infant requires during this stage.
The first feed post birth is especially critical as it contains, colostrum which acts as a shield against a host of fatal diseases and impacts the intelligence of the child positively.
Recognising this, the World Health Organisation advocates exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life and prolonged breastfeeding up to two years for best results.
“The health benefits of mother’s milk are abounded and leave an imprint on the child for a lifetime. Therefore, we at Medela engage in comprehensive and consistent research on human milk as we strongly believe that it is the best suited for infants. Our aim is to enable and empower mothers to breastfeed at home and in workplaces by providing lactation support so that they can continue being a nutrition provider for their babies,” said Emilie Moulard, Managing Director, Medela India.