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Why exclusive breastfeeding is important

Why exclusive breastfeeding is important Published Date : 10 Aug 2018
Breastmilk which is rich in fat, protein and minerals, is sufficient to cater to all nutritional requirememts of a newborn child. Human breastmilk contains over 300 nourishing ingredients whereas even the best of formula food has just 40 ingredients. As per studies, babies who are exclusively breastfed until the age of six months are found to be healthier.

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding till six months of age. Most mothers, nowadays are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. However, only 41.6 per cent of newborns in India are breastfed within an hour of birth. The National Family Health Survey 2015-'16 (NFHS-4) reports released last year also reveals a worrying trend. Over 46 per cent of babies in Karnataka younger than six months old are not exclusively breastfed. In 2005-06, 58.6 per cent of children in the state were exclusively breastfed. According to the latest NFH report, the state has seen a 4.4 per cent dip in the number of babies under six months who are exclusively breastfed. The rate of exclusive breastfeeding rate in the country is slightly better, but not very promising(55 per cent).

Having to return to work during postpartum is one of the key reasons why women stop breastfeeding early. It is challenging for a working mother to continue breastfeeding unless she expresses and stores milk. There is not enough awareness among mothers on how to pump and keep breastmilk. So many of them opt for formula feeding.

Women who refrain from breastfeeding early commonly say that they did not have enough milk. This is one of the most common breastfeeding myths, says Shagufta Parveen, a lactation support consultant based in Bengaluru. “Most women produce enough milk for three babies,” says Parveen who is part of a team of experts that has opened a dedicated tollfree number to offer free guidance and support to lactating mothers. “We get calls from women across the country. Many of them ask about ways to increase the breast milk supply,” says Parveen.

Sometimes women quit breastfeeding due to health reasons. Women with inverted nipple deformity may have difficulty in breastfeeding. “It is an extremely common condition, affecting roughly every 1 in 30 women. In most cases, many women are quite unaware of the problem till they become pregnant or sexually active, says Dr Sunil Choudhary, senior director and chief of plastic surgery, Max Institute of Reconstructive, Aesthetic, Cleft and Craniofacial Surgery, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket. “Advanced plastic surgery techniques allow duct sparing or correction of the inversion for satisfactory long-term results. It is a simple daycare procedure that can even be conducted among pregnant women before their third trimester, removing obstructions to breastfeeding, which is critical for both the baby and the mother’s wellbeing,” he adds.

Early initiation of breastmilk can help prevent deaths due to diarrhea and pneumonia, says Dr Sreenath Manikanti, head of the department and consultant neonatologist at Fortis La Femme, Bengaluru. Studies show that babies who are breastfed tend to have fewer infections when compared to their formula-fed counterparts.

Exclusive breastfeeding can also go a long way in bringing down the neonatal mortality rate in the country. India accounts for a high burden of preterm births—around 3.5 million babies in the country are born preterm. This is one of the major factors that contributes to India's high neonatal mortality rate. Breastmilk is the best food for premature babies. Preemies who are breastfed have a better chance of survival.

Help is at hand for women who are not able to breastfeed. Currently, there are about 30 human milk banks in the country that supply donor milk. “We have been supplying milk to high-risk babies in Delhi and Bengaluru, both in the private and government hospitals, for more than a year and have saved so many lives,'' says Dr Raghuram Mallaiah, founder of Amaara Human Milk Bank, New Delhi with a glint of pride in his eyes.



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