World Breastfeeding Week 2020: Nourishing the Youngest – Successful strategies for public health community

August 01, 2020 2:13 PM

Societal support (Family and Social Network-Husbands/parents/friends) increases the mother's confidence in her ability to breastfeed beyond the early weeks and months.

Breastfeeding choices are ultimately a mother’s individual decision.Breastfeeding choices are ultimately a mother’s individual decision.

Dr Sujeet Ranjan

The World Breastfeeding Week 2020 (1-7 August) is being celebrated for the last 29 years and every year it provides us with an opportunity to promote it as breastfeeding is a cornerstone for child survival and health especially during youth because it provides essential irreplaceable nutrition for a child’s growth and development.

This year the WBW is of more importance for the public health nutrition community. In the current scenario, it is important to address the myths and misconceptions challenges that COVID 19 poses for breastfeeding. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate or continue to breastfeed. Mothers should be counselled that the advantages of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks for transmission. Breastfeeding is especially effective against infectious diseases because it strengthens the system by directly transferring antibodies from the mother.

Effective strategies for healthcare providers

The public health community and health care providers have to support and enable women to breastfeed better. Successful strategies to improve breastfeeding include health care services, communities and families, and government. Health care services offer a valuable point of contact for mothers-to-be and breastfeeding mothers. Mothers need information, support, and empowerment in the community and at home. Government efforts include enacting appropriate policies, such as supporting breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. Changes can begin in any of these areas, but an effective strategy works in all three.

Optimal breastfeeding within the first year and complementary feeding practices together can prevent almost one-fifth of deaths in children under five years aged .There is a challenge for all of us to change the practices where breastfeeding within one hour is only 41.6 and exclusive breastfeeding (0-6 months) is only 54.9 as per the National Family Health Survey 4.

Role of healthcare workers

Breastfeeding practices come short of the optimal for several reasons. The role of a health care worker is very crucial at the time of birth. In addition to facing greater risk because mothers lack access to adequate health care, these mothers and babies rarely receive antenatal or extended postpartum health care services that support optimal breastfeeding. Women increasingly work in jobs outside of the home. Sometime, when women resume full-time employment after childbirth, the separation from their infants makes it difficult to maintain exclusive breastfeeding for the full first six months of the child’s life. Also, many ladies hold incorrect views about breastfeeding or don’t recognize its health benefits. Women and their family members may believe incorrectly that breastmilk is not enough to satisfy or nourish their infants. In fact, breastmilk is a complete food and contains all the water and nutrients an infant need.

Others mistakenly believe that breastfeeding too often, or feeding from both breasts, will deplete the supply of breastmilk. In fact, these practices lead to more production of breastmilk. Still others may think that their child is still hungry when the child cries or reaches out and thus gives foods other than breastmilk, instead of continuing to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding choices are ultimately a mother’s individual decision. Women can make informed decisions about breastfeeding and support for it. Societal support (Family and Social Network-Husbands/parents/friends) increases the mother’s confidence in her ability to breastfeed beyond the early weeks and months.

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