(The writer is Ph.D. research scholar, Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat, She reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Breastfeeding within the first hour is very important for a baby’s healthy life. Initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth is the most vital step towards reducing infant mortality. Infants should be exclusively breastfed up to 6 months of age and no other supplementary foods should be allotted.
A baby is an angel that illuminates the home with happiness and hope for living. Nature’s most precious gift to the newborn is mother’s milk which is the first communication path between the mother and her baby. Hormones released during breastfeeding help to strengthen the maternal bond between mother and her child. Breastfeeding is generally considered as the ideal feeding practice and basic nutrition for an infant. It is full of anti-infective factors acts, as the first vaccination for babies to prevent harmful diseases.
Breastfeeding within the first hour is very important for a baby’s healthy life. Initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth is the most vital step towards reducing infant mortality. Infants should be exclusively breastfed up to 6 months of age and no other supplementary foods should be allotted. Early and exclusive breastfeeding helps children survive and also support brain development, health and nutrition enhancement, cognitive performance improvement and better educational achievement at the age of 5. Breast milk makes available of all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that is desired for an infant’s growth in the first six months. In addition to that, it contains bioactive factors which have anti-infective, antioxidant and growth promoting properties. Breastfeeding not only grant children with the best start in life but also protect against some diseases in childhood and in later life too. As compared to artificial feeds, mother’s milk supports brain development, early childhood development and also improves Intelligence Quotient and brain size. When a mother gives birth, her body is not only able to provide nourishment to her baby but is also designed to be its own personal medicine cupboard. Women who breastfeed have decreased the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, reducing the risk of post-partum bleeding and obesity. Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help to lose pregnancy weight faster.
All babies have a human right to breast milk. But, breastfeeding rates in India are abysmally low. Although breastfeeding is common, exclusive breastfeeding is not a normal practice. In India, millions of babies die every year due to poor care and wrong infant feeding practices. Still, a higher proportion of mothers start breastfeeding at the second day of an infant born and also discard the colostrum which is special milk, yellow to orange in color and thick or sticky. It is low in fat and high in carbohydrate, protein, and antibodies that keep baby healthy. The knowledge of mothers regarding different aspects of breastfeeding was found to be deficient.
This might be the root of illiteracy, ignorance, and unawareness in the social system. Most of the mothers are aware of the advantages of breastfeeding, but the practice is lacking. The knowledge of physiological, biological, psychological, emotional and financial benefits of breastfeeding is not only related to mothers but also for the whole society. Therefore, if the science of breastfeeding can be used as a tool for breastfeeding promotion; wrong practices can be removed from the society. A lot of factors ranging from customs, practices, education of parents, support from family, health workers and most significant media play a major role to make breastfeeding awareness successful. Information media can be utilized to convey messages on the practice of breastfeeding that is a requirement of every culture for a healthy life. Counseling is also an alternative breastfeeding promotional strategy. In the inaccessible areas where media unable to reach, for those areas health professionals can promote the awareness about the importance of breastfeeding among the people. Counselling provides at home or hospital can also be an opportunity to involve other family members to support the pregnant and lactating mother.
To reduce the child mortality in India and to increase exclusive breastfeeding rate in the community, there is a need to improve the knowledge, attitude, and practices of breastfeeding among pregnant and lactating mothers and as a whole to the society. Breastfeeding gives children the healthiest start in life and is one of the simplest, smartest and most cost-effective ways of ensuring that all children survive and thrive. Consequently, it also makes good economic sense too. Women who have adequate maternity benefits value their employers, leading to increased productivity, job satisfaction and loyalty in the workplace. The need of the hour is to step together and support different organizations and media developers to promote breastfeeding; particularly exclusive breastfeeding to make the upcoming generation a healthy creation.