Exclusive breastfeeding improves butearly initiation of breastfeeding falls in majority of states, NFHS-5 reports

This article highlights the progress towards two major indicators of breastfeeding practices: Children under age 3 years breastfed within one hour of birth and Children under age 6 months exclusively breastfed.

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Exclusive breastfeeding improves butearly initiation of breastfeeding falls in majority of states, NFHS-5 the policy times

The practice of exclusive breastfeeding increased while the practice of early initiation of breastfeeding dipped across most Indian states in the past half-a-decade, according to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5). Breastfeeding and child feeding practices have been covered in the recently published Key findings for 22 states in the first phase of NFHS-5 by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This article highlights the progress towards two major indicators of breastfeeding practices: Children under age 3 years breastfed within one hour of birth and Children under age 6 months exclusively breastfed.

Early initiation of breastfeeding

Provision of a mother’s breast milk to infants within one hour of birth is referred to as early initiation of breastfeeding. According to WHO, first milk ensures that the infant receives the colostrum which is rich in protective factors. When compared to NFHS-4, the surveyed states have shown an array of varying results in NFHS-5. There are certain states that have fared exceptionally well over these 5 years with commendable improvement in the percentage of children under age three breastfed within one hour of birth. These states include Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshadweep.

On the other hand, there are states like Bihar, Telangana and Ladakh, where the registered increase has not been quite encouraging. On the other hand states of Sikkim, Assam, Gujarat, Manipur, Mizoram and Goa have shown a huge reduction in the prevalence of early initiation of breastfeeding and needs investigation of the associated factors. Meghalaya and Kerala top the list while Bihar remains at the bottom among the surveyed states where still only one out of three children receive early breastfeeding.

The urban-rural differentials in initiation of breastfeeding seem to have narrowed down as per the latest NFHS estimates. Surprisingly, majority of states report higher prevalence of early initiation of breastfeeding in comparison to their urban counterparts. Majority of districts of Bihar, Telangana and Gujrat need special attention and investment in awareness campaigns to promote the early breastfeeding initiation practices.

Exclusive breastfeeding practices

Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as no other food or drink, not even water, except breast milk (including milk expressed or from a wet nurse) for 6 months of life, but allows the infant to receive ORS, drops and syrups (vitamins, minerals and medicines). According to WHO exclusive breastfeeding protects infants against diarrhoea and common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, and may also have longer-term health benefits, such as reducing the risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence.

As per the recently released data, except Sikkim and Tripura, most of the surveyed states registered significant improvement or no change in exclusive breastfeeding practice. Sikkim reports huge dip while Maharashtra shows a noteworthy increase. However, almost every third or second child is not breastfed exclusively in the states of Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland, West Bengal, Kerala, Bihar and Karnataka. Interestingly Bihar is performing better than Kerala in this respect.

Across the front runner states like Maharashtra, Manipur, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and aspirant states like Kerala, Bihar and Karnataka, rural children are benefitting more than their counterparts while in Meghalaya, Karnataka and West Bengal rural children are more deprived in terms of exclusive breastfeeding practice. This phenomenon is quite surprising as urban women are considered more aware of maternal and child care practices.

The importance of early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding practices have well been outlined in the National Guidelines on Infant and Young Child feeding practices (IYCF). The Planning Commission, for the very first time, had included goals for breastfeeding and complementary feeding in the National Nutrition Goals for the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-2007). The latest initiative taken by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the year 2016, to promote exclusive breastfeeding practices was under the name of MAA (Mothers’ Absolute Affection) aiming to build an enabling environment for breastfeeding through awareness generation and reinforcement of lactation support services at public health facilities. But the results from the fifth round of national family health survey indicate no major achievement of the new initiative.

WHO released the Global Nutrition Report 2020 in the month of May, at a time when the global pandemic was at its zenith. The report states that India falls among the 88 countries that are likely to miss global nutrition targets by 2025. The global pandemic has posed a substantial threat to the human immunological system and the importance of breastfeeding has increased more than ever before. However, with the public health workers being diverted towards COVID related services and emerging misconception surrounding the possibility of transmission of the virus from the mother to the baby will only worsen the prevalence of the breastfeeding practices during a time when it is of prime importance to build and boost an infant’s immunity.


By,

PoushalyTalukdar
Post-Graduate student at International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai

Akancha Singh
Research Graduate from International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai.

Bishwajeet Besra
Research Graduate from International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai.

Nand Lal Mishra
Research Graduate from International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai.

 

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Exclusive breastfeeding improves butearly initiation of breastfeeding falls in majority of states, NFHS-5 reports
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article highlights the progress towards two major indicators of breastfeeding practices: Children under age 3 years breastfed within one hour of birth and Children under age 6 months exclusively breastfed.
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The Policy Times
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