Breastfeeding week this year, puts the spotlight on the on the need to create an enabling and conducive environment for mothers to be able to breastfeed their children whether it is at the hospital, home or at the workplace. 

Newborns who are breastfed in the first hour of life are significantly more likely to survive. Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulate the mother’s production of breastmilk, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies. 

Dr. Raghvendra Sharma, Dy Director, Nodal Officer, Child Health Jharkhand; Dr. Asha Kiran, PSM RIMS, Ms Astha Alang, Communication, Advocacy & Partnership Specialist, UNICEF; Mr Pritish Nayak, Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF; Dr Vanesh Mathur, Health Officer, UNICEF; Mrs Akai Minz, State Program Coordinator and SPM, NHM, Jharkhand, Mrs Sudhadevi M.,Principal, CON, RIMS, Ranchi; Dr. Kiran Trivedi, Dept. of Gynaecology, RIMS, and other health officials were also present on this occasion.

Talking about the best practices and initiatives in the State for improving breastfeeding practices and strengthening the of implementation of Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992 and as amended in 2003 (IMS ACT). 

“Dr. Raghvendra Narayan Sharma, Deputy Director, Health Services cum Nodal Officer, Child Health, Jharkhand said, “Health facilities should strictly focus on breastfeeding policy in hospitals and the nurses should be made aware about it. It is also crucial that health workers as well as advertising companies, community members and media get it implemented as a part of their ownership and shared responsibility and we should never promote infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles or infant milk products under normal conditions. 


Concerned staff are continuously trained on this and programmes like these will help in spreading further awareness about the benefits of early initiation of breastfeeding (within 1 hr. of delivery), exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding at least up to 2 years.”

Ms Astha Alang, Communication, Advocacy & Partnership specialist, UNICEF set the tone of the meeting and said, “World Breastfeeding Week, is an annual celebration observed around the world, and is an opportunity to celebrate the collective effort to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. 

The theme of the week, Making a Difference for Working Parents and Exclusive Breastfeeding within the first hour of birth , highlights the need to inform people about the perspectives of working parents regarding breastfeeding and parenting; Establishing optimal paid leave and workplace support as crucial factors in enabling breastfeeding; Engaging with individuals and organizations to foster collaboration and support for breastfeeding in the workplace and galvanizing action to improve working conditions and provide relevant support for breastfeeding. The consultation was an opportunity to strengthen existing partnerships and create new ways to invest in breastfeeding for a more sustainable future.” 

She also stressed on media's support and role of the media and said, “Media can play an important role in shaping public perceptions, attitudes, and practices for creating an enabling environment around breastfeeding. Media is critical in advocating for policy changes that can support breastfeeding by drawing attention to gaps, promoting good workplace practices, and societal norms, and influence public opinion to adopt exclusive breastfeeding.”

Facilitating the technical session on the benefits of early initiation, Mr Pritish Nayak, Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF said; “The benefits of breastfeeding for children, mothers, and society are widespread. Breastfeeding provides protective antibodies from mother to the new-born and protects infants against life-threatening infections, supports healthy brain development in children, and prevents acute and chronic childhood and maternal illness. 

Common practices, such as discarding colostrum, an elder feeding the baby honey or health professionals giving the newborn a specific liquid, such as sugar water or infant formula, delay a newborn’s first critical contact with his or her mother. There is need to spread further awareness about this and hence this consultation is very timely and critical.” 

He further elaborated “Breastfeeding is a smart investment.Investing in breastfeeding - which helps prevent infant deaths and boosts physical development and IQ - can save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives and bring major economic benefits.It is a natural phenomenon and free of cost. In the last two decades, significant progress has been made to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates, but it is still not enough. 

We need to go some extra mile to make Jharkhand a malnutrition free state. The gains from exclusive breastfeeding would result from reduced illness and health care costs and increased productivity too.” 

Dr Vanesh Mathur, Health Officer, UNICEF highlighted the importance of exclusive breastfeeding to ensure overall development of children. He said, “Exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months can help prevent diarrhea and pneumonia, two major causes of infant death, and reduces the risk of infections, allergies and sudden infant death syndrome. 

It also improves babies’ cognitive development and protects mothers against ovarian and breast cancer. Irrespective of the type of childbirth – whether normal delivery or a caesarian, children should be given only mother’s milk for the first six months.” 

In this discussion, Mrs Jiren S. Kandunna, Hospital Manager, Sadar Ranchi; Mrs Sherin Anne Raju, Executive Associate, UNICEF; Mrs Dorothy Kipothy, GNM, Maternity Ward, Sadar Ranchi; Mrs Babita Mandol, ANM, Maternity Ward, Sadar Ranchi and Asha workers also shared their experiences around breastfeeding and early initiation in the health centres, hospitals, at the workplace and the community.  

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