On the eve of the start of the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), experts have called for mother and baby friendly workplaces and increased family support to enable working women to breastfeed their babies adequately.
The theme of the WBW this year is “breastfeeding and work: let’s make it work” and experts have highlighted the need to focus on working mothers in context of proper breastfeeding practices, especially as the number of working women has grown over the years.
“There is an absolute need to provide crèche and suitable feeding space and breaks to the lactating mothers at workplaces as part of maternity benefits,” prominent paediatrician Dr Sheela Bhambal said, while speaking to HT.
Mothers who cannot take babies to their workplaces for some reason can adopt the practice of expressing breast milk that can be fed to the baby later, using sterile bowls.
“But this process (of expressing milk) is not yet culturally accepted in India and hence, there is a need to bring about behavioural changes. Also, family support is of great importance,” the senior doctor, who was president of the MP unit of Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) for several years, said.
Dr Bhambal said that despite constant effort, breastfeeding practices have not caught up satisfactorily, though progress in some aspects has been good.
According to the annual health survey report 2012-13, about 66% of children in MP are initiated early to breastfeeding (within one hour), but only 41.5% children get exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age, which is a big concern.
“The dropping figures of breastfeeding during the first six months of babies’ lives indicate a need for such facilities at workplaces. This is also important as breastfeeding along with complementary food should continue till the baby is two years of age,” she said.
The expert also emphasised that mothers, especially working mothers, should take care of their own diets and add two bowls of porridge with milk daily to their dietary intake to ensure proper breast milk production.
Nutrition officer of UNICEF, MP, Pushpa Awasthy said breastfeeding saves lives of children, and is key to growth and development of child.
The World Breastfeeding week is an opportunity to promote the practice. “Keeping in theme of the week this year, we call upon all government departments, Institutions and private organisations to create mother and baby friendly environment at the workplace and public places. We also call to families to support working mothers so that they can breastfeed the baby along with work,” she said.
Best breastfeeding practices
Early initiation of child to breast milk — within one hour of birth
Exclusive breastfeeding till 180 days of life - not even water needed
Continued breastfeeding till baby is two years - with complementary food
Continuing breastfeeding in case of minor illness of child and mother
Mothers adopting best practices to be awarded
The department of women and child development would be organising programmes from August 1 to 7 to create awareness about importance of breastfeeding. The programmes include door-to-door counselling, musical programmes, screening of film, training and others. On the last day, August 7, mothers who breastfeed newborn immediately after birth and exclusively till 6 months will be awarded.