Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, National Coordinator Arun Gupta today said over 20 per cent of all infant deaths could be prevented by breastfeeding within an hour of birth.

”The country needs to act on this critical intervention. No other intervention, be it curative or preventive, can make such a drastic change in newborn health profile of the nation,” he said speaking at a National workshop on ”Promoting child survival, nutrition and health by achieving optimal infant and young child feeding practices”.

He called for an action plan at national level with the involvement of the Ministry of Health and National AIDS Control Organisation to support exclusive breastfeeding for first six months.

The impact of community intervention had improved infant feeding in rural Haryana. Infant mortality rate was lowered by 32 per cent with exclusive breastfeeding going up from 39 to 70 per cent, he said citing a study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. Exclusive breastfeeding prevents almost half of diarrhoea deaths of newborns of 0-6 months. Mr Gupta opined that India should invest in a major programme under the current child health and nutrition sector to protect, promote and support exclusive breastfeeding for first six months taking into account its role in reducing child deaths and thus enhancing the development of the society.” Pointing out that the initiation of breastfeeding was only 23 per cent in the country now, which had increased from 16 per cent in seven years at the rate of one per cent, he said we had to go a long way in achieving universal coverage of the key intervention.

He suggested provision of a family counsellor on infant and young child feeding and a specialist counsellor to support breast feeding, complementary feeding and infant feeding. He also suggested HIV presentation at the rate of five per 10,000 population for skilled counselling. Home visits as well as referral support had been demonstrated to be helpful in many settings in and outside India, he pointed out.

In India, child malnutrition begins as early as three to four months and peaks between eight to 18 months.

He said exclusive breastfeeding was highly uneven across the country. While the national average was only 46.3 per cent, Chhattisgarh topped the list with 82 per cent while Haryana recorded abysmally low at 16.9 per cent. The relatively better performing states are Asom (63.1), Andhra Pradesh (62.7), Manipur(61.7), Arunachal Pradesh (60), West Bengal (58.6), Karnataka (58), Jharkhand (57.8), Kerala (56.2), Maharashtra (53), Uttar Pradesh (51.3) and Orissa (50.2). Goa too came way down the list with meagre 17.7 per cent.

Via Web India