The potential of a natural and effective measure that can protect newborn babies against a host of life-threatening conditions such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and neonatal sepsis, is often overlooked, according to doctors.
“Exclusive breastfeeding of newborns can help prevent 75 per cent of neonatal deaths in the country. This is a huge number when you consider that of the 26 million babies born in India every year, 1.2 million die within a month of birth,” said Dr Jayashree Mondkar, at the Mumbai Breastfeeding Promotion Committee’s (MBPC) programme to kick off the World Breastfeeding Awareness week from August 1-7.
The theme for the awareness week, ‘Just 10 Steps’, aims to create awareness about the importance of breastfeeding to mothers, doctors and nursing staff. The plan will inform pregnant women about the benefits of breastfeeding, stress on starting breastfeeding within half an hour of birth and maintain lactation even when separated from their infants.
According to the National Family Health Survey, 2005-06, about 53 per cent of mothers in Maharashtra exclusively breastfeed their newborn babies. “Maharashtra’s percentage is better compared to the national figure, but we will continue our work to improve it further,” said Dr Evelet Sequeira of the UNICEF, which is part of the MBPC.