The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a new 10-step guidance to increase support for breastfeeding in health facilities that provide maternity and newborn services, which provide the immediate health system platform to help mothers initiate breastfeeding within the first hour and breastfeed exclusively for six months.
Breastfeeding all babies for the first 2 years would save the lives of more than 8,20,000 children under age 5 annually, noted a release issued by the WHO.
The guidelines describe how hospitals should have a written breastfeeding policy in place, required staff competencies, and antenatal and post-birth care, including breastfeeding support for mothers.
It also recommends limited use of breast milk substitutes, rooming-in, responsive feeding, and educating parents on the use of bottles and pacifiers, and support when mothers and babies are discharged from the hospital.
Breastfeeding saves lives. Its benefits help keep babies healthy in their first days and last well into adulthood.
But breastfeeding requires support, encouragement and guidance. With these basic steps, implemented properly, we can significantly improve breastfeeding rates around the world and give children the best possible start in life.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in many hospitals and communities across the world, the question whether a child can be breastfed or not can make the difference between life and death.
The significance of Breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding is an important efficient and cost-effective intervention promoting child survival and health. Breastfeeding within an hour of birth could prevent 20% of the newborn deaths. Infants who are not breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhoea than children who are exclusively breastfed, which are two leading causes of death in children under-five years of age. In addition, children who were not breastfed are at increased risk for diabetes, obesity, allergies, asthma, childhood leukaemia, sudden infant death syndrome etc. Apart from mortality and morbidity benefits, breastfeeding also has a tremendous impact on improved IQ.
To intensify the efforts further for the promotion of breastfeeding, the Health Ministry has initiated a nationwide programme called “MAA-Mother’s Absolute Affection’’ to bring undiluted focus on the promotion of breastfeeding and provision of services towards supporting breastfeeding, along with ongoing efforts of routine health systems.
The key components of the MAA programme are awareness generation, promotion of breastfeeding & interpersonal counselling at the community level, skilled support for breastfeeding at delivery points and monitoring and Award/ recognition of health facility.
Under this programme, ASHA has been incentivized for reaching out to pregnant and lactating mothers and provide information on benefits and techniques of successful breastfeeding during interpersonal communication. ANMs at all sub-centres and health personnel at all delivery points are being trained for providing skilled support to mothers referred to issues related to breastfeeding.
Under NHM, funding support has been recommended for all States and UTs for successful implementation of the MAA programme.