Infant breastfeeding within an hour of birth declines in Bihar
The number of children in Bihar who were breastfed within the first hour of their birth has decreased in the last four- five years, as per National Family and Health Survey (NFHS) reports. NFHS-4, for the year 2015-16, shows only 34.9% children were reported to have been breastfed within an hour of their birth in Bihar and that percentage dipped further for year 2019-20 to 31.1% as per NFHS-5.
However, the percentage of institutional delivery has increased in the state from 63.8% from 2015-16 to 76.2% in 2019-20, the reports noted.
Breastfeeding is considered the first immunization for the newborn and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO) celebrate World Breastfeeding Week between August 1 and August 7, which started Sunday this year.
“Breastfeeding within the first hour of birth is essential for children as they get many critical nutrients through this milk and develop high IQ level. Not just that, it also prevents obesity and non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension and the risks of diarrhea and pneumonia among children. But those children who didn’t get it must be in greater risk during the ongoing health emergencies like Covid-19 pandemic,” Dr Vijay Prakash Rai from the Bihar State Health Society, said.
The main reason for the percentage of children breastfed within the first hour of birth to be low is the lack of awareness about the importance of this practice. A resource center for Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) has been set up in Patna to create awareness about breastfeeding among pregnant and lactating women, Dr Rai added.
Nipurnh Gupta, media coordinator, Unicef, Bihar, said it is essential to create IYFC counseling centres at all government health facilities where deliveries take place as part of the National Health Mission (NHM) mandate. The facility has been set up in nine districts of Bihar so far, she added.
Dr Rai said they have planned online orientation programmes during the breastfeeding week to enhance the abilities of ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers who have been working as IYCF counsellors in the state. Besides, the State Health Society and Unicef, Bihar have also been working to make hospitals bottle free, he added.
Nipurnh said, “In 12 districts of the state, including Arwal, Bhagalpur, Gaya, Jehanabad, Khagaria, Muzaffarpur, Purnea, Samastipur, Saran, Sheikhpura, and Sitamarhi, government hospitals have become bottle free.” Two medical colleges, Nalanda Medical College and Hospital in Patna and Anugrah Narayan Medical College and Hospital in Gaya too have achieved this status, she added.