Let’s understand the benefits of breastfeeding on this World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7

he mother and the kid both have the right to breastfeed. However, it can be difficult for working moms in India to strike a balance between their professional obligations and their desire to breastfeed. A woman frequently performs the combined roles of homemaker and wage earner. It is nothing less than a challenge for her to find a balance between these two responsibilities. In addition to working outside the home, they are required to care for their children while also doing time-consuming, exhausting household chores. We are concentrating on maternity benefits this year. The World Breastfeeding Week 2023 theme is, “Enabling Breastfeeding- Making a Difference for Working Parents,” examines the significance of systems in India that safeguard, support, and encourage nursing.

The MOHFW-Government of India, WHO, and UNICEF recommend that breastfeeding begin within an hour of birth, that it be exclusively continued for the first six months of life, that it be continued for at least two years, and that it be supplemented with the proper foods after those six months. The burden of undernutrition and overweight, obesity, or diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some malignancies, may be simultaneously reduced by optimal feeding. According to a study on the financial costs of not breastfeeding, India experiences 3.47 crore instances of diarrhea, 0.24 crore cases of pneumonia, and 40,382 cases of obesity because of insufficient breastfeeding, along with 100,000 unnecessary child deaths (mostly caused by pneumonia and diarrhea).

More than 7000 cases of breast cancer, 1700 cases of ovarian cancer, and 87,000 cases of type 2 diabetes are health impacts on mothers. India spends 875.84 crores INR on medical expenses related to disease. Contrary to widespread belief, breastfeeding rates are still low in India. According to the National Family Health Survey (2019–21), nearly 90% of women give birth in medical facilities (both public and private), however only 41.8% of women start breastfeeding within an hour of giving birth. It is heartening to see an increase in the percentage of infants who are exclusively breastfed throughout the first six months of life—63.7%. However, only 45.9% of infants who are still exclusively breastfed between 6 and 8 months begin eating semi-solid foods.

India had a poor score of 45 out of 100 in the World Breastfeeding Trends (WBTi) 2018 report on infant and young child feeding policies and programs. There is room for development in several areas, such as national policy and coordination, hospitals that are welcoming to infants, maternity protection and infant feeding during emergencies, and IMS Act enforcement. Due to insufficient investment in this sector, India came in at position 79 overall out of 98 nations studied for breastfeeding policy and assistance.

Whether they work from home or elsewhere, all women are employed. When starting and maintaining exclusive breastfeeding and continuing it for two years or more, working parents frequently confront numerous challenges.

  • lack of knowledgeable postpartum breastfeeding assistance.
  • lack of knowledge about the current maternity benefits.
  • commercial baby food marketing on social media is perplexing and deceptive.
  • exploitation and discrimination in work, particularly in the unorganized economy.
  • lack of breastfeeding rooms that are private and hygienic.
  • lack of family and friends support
  • The social taboo attached to breastfeeding in public places makes things much more difficult.

Here are some policy and programmatic elements for India that support an enabling environment:

  1. Implementing and monitoring breastfeeding practices effectively: The Mothers’ Absolute Affection (MAA) Program most urgently needs to take the following steps.
  • Provide doctors and nurses with breastfeeding support skill training.
  • Make sure that each maternity hospital tracks and measures its indications for breastfeeding.
  • Enhance the teaching of breastfeeding in medical and nursing schools.
  • bring in private hospitals.
  1. Hospitals are recognised as “Breastfeeding Friendly” facilities.
    An innovative accreditation process for all maternity hospitals, particularly those in the private sector, has been launched by the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) in collaboration with private hospital Association of Health Care Providers in India (AHPI).

The WHO’s “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” form the basis of this. All maternity hospitals ought to strive to meet these standards to support effective breastfeeding practices.

  1. Start a Maternity Benefit Act awareness campaign: Using the media, parents must be made aware of their rights under this Act. Those who don’t get them have the right to complain.
  2. Breastfeeding Friendly Workplaces: Employers should designate areas of the workplace that are conducive to breastfeeding. Included in this is offering paid maternity leave. lactation rooms that are spotless, secluded, and well-equipped so moms can comfortably express milk. Taking a break from breastfeeding enables mothers to keep up their milk production.

Childcare facilities.

  1. Strictly implement the Infant Milk Substitutes Act through public education and ongoing oversight, particularly in the health systems.

To conclude, India needs to increase the prevalence of breastfeeding and promote breastfeeding practices at the home, community, and societal levels.

Effective policy advocacy and social behavior change that integrates interpersonal contacts, mass media, and community-level programs are necessary to start and maintain the momentum for breastfeeding. For us to position ourselves to accomplish the global breastfeeding targets, an approach needs to be informed by reliable and timely data on rates and behaviors.

  • Teena Abishek is a Prenatal & Lactation Consultant from Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association, CAPPA USA. She has got 12 plus years of medical professional experience. Currently, she is practicing at Apollo Specialty Hospitals, OMR and R and R Hospital, T Nagar, Chennai.