NEW DELHI: With number of deliveries through cesarean section rising, many more new born babies are not getting the most critical first feed of breast milk within one hour of birth. Citing lack of awareness and support systems to help a mother feed her baby after the delivery through C-section, health practitioners feel an urgent need for putting in place guidelines and support systems to help all such mothers with the required support to breastfeed the baby.
“Specific guidance is required for mothers who had cesarean sections or with low birth weight babies,” it is stated in the report titled “Arrested Development- Assessment of India’s Policy and Programmes on Infant and Young Child Feeding 2018”. Provision of mother’s milk to babies within one hour of birth is referred to as “early initiation of breastfeeding” and ensures that the infant receives colostrum which is rich in protective factors. Other than health benefits to children, breastfeeding also reduces risk of breast and ovarian cancer in the mothers and protects the baby from risks of future obesity and diabetes in children.
Fariha Matloob, a breastfeeding counselor is quoted. A field worker and a mother of a 9-month-old child she faced breastfeeding issues after her delivery at a private hospital in east Delhi. “Being a knowledgeable and aware woman I still failed in exclusively breastfeeding my child after my cesarean section because I did not get the required support from the hospital staff. I couldn’t breastfeed my child on the second day that led to engorged breasts. If I had practical support during that time this could have been prevented”.
“Women continue to face barriers such as perceptions of ‘not enough milk’, breast conditions like sore nipples, engorgement and mastitis,introduction of infant formula, cesarean section delivery, lack of support at work places, all these are common reasons for women to give up breastfeeding,” it is stated in the report brought out by Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India and Public Health Resource Network. It is stated that there are many barriers to optimal feeding practices at the level of the community, the work place and the health facilities.
“About 15 million babies out of 26 million born are not able to begin breastfeeding within one hour of birth even as 80 % women deliver in health facilities,” the report states deriving these estimates based on the National Family Health Survey – 4. It is further estimated that out of 18.8 million women exclusively breastfeeding at less than 2 months, the numbers nosedive to 10.7 million at 6 months. Only 2 out of 5 babies of 6-8 months begin with solid foods along with continued breastfeeding, and only 1 out of 10 children 6-24 months old receive minimum acceptable diet containing a variety from four food groups.