Breastfeeding within an hour of Birth prevents 20 percent newborn deaths

August 08, 2017 04:40 PM

Punjab News Express
CHANDIGARH : Breastfeeding within an hour of birth prevents 20 percent of newborn deaths. Infants who have not breastfed are being faced 15 times more possibility to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhoea than children who are exclusively breastfed, which are two leading causes of death in children under-five years of age.”

Disclosing this here today, Health and Family Welfare Minister, Mr. Brahm Mohindra added that as per data of National Family Health Survey-4, only 30.7 percent of mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth despite the fact that about 90 percent of mothers deliver in institutions. Further 53 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed during the first six months and only 41.1percent of babies between 6-8 months are given complementary foods (NFHS-4, 2015-16).

Given the overwhelming evidence available on the impact of breastfeeding on reduction of neonatal mortality and infant mortality, it is imperative that efforts are intensified to improve optimal breastfeeding practices (early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding for at least two years).

The Health Minister stressed on the need to protect, promote and support breastfeeding as one of the best investments in health of a nation. ‘This is an important activity of the health systems and the present MAA programme (Mothers Absolute Affection) attempts to intensify efforts to promote optimal infant and young child feeding practices, with a focus on breastfeeding”, he added.

It is pertinent to mention here that National production of breast milk by all mothers in India for the children was breastfeeding at the time of the estimate was about 3944 million liters over 2 yrs. If the breast milk produced were replaced by tinned milk, it would cost 118 billion Rupees. If imported, the breast-milk substitutes would cost 4.7 million USD. If breastfeeding practices were optimal, breast milk production would be twice the current amount, doubling the savings by fully utilizing this “national resource”.

Evidence suggests that a significant return on investment is likely with breastfeeding promotion. Supporting Optimal Breastfeeding is worth the investment as a preventive measure, breastfeeding promotes improved health outcomes and is cost-effective.

Divulging more, Mr. Mohindra said that to support women for sustaining exclusive breastfeeding, the Parliament recently passed a new policy on maternity protection that allows 26 weeks of maternity leave and other benefits to all working women.
This policy needs to be implemented by all, including the private sector, in order to contribute to increased breastfeeding rates. Further, Punjab needs to revitalise, strengthen and institutionalize baby-friendly practices and the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding in both public and private facilities, providing lactation counselling support as an essential service.

Breastfeeding clearly improves the health of infants and mothers and seems to result in cost savings for parents, insurers, employers, and society, which means that the medical and economic value of breastfeeding is high. To reap the health and economic benefits associated with breastfeeding, there is a need to support breastfeeding promotion, which is taken care as MAA (Mothers Absolute Affection) programme under National Health Mission. Through support of such a program, the Punjab government likely will benefit significantly by improving the health of children and its financial bottom line.

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