(This is a synopsis of a Hindi-language article originally reported by Krishna Ranjan from Patna for the Rashtriya Sahara)
Every newborn child should be breastfed within an hour of birth. Such a practice has been known to reduce newborn mortality significantly. In Bihar, 63 percent of births take place in hospitals. It is surprising however that only 35 percent of these babies are breastfed within an hour of birth – sadly, in this ‘golden period’ nursing staff give more attention to the cleaning of the baby and the family spends more time distributing sweets.
The first milk the mother produces after delivery is nutrient-rich milk called ‘Colostrum’, which protects the baby when it is most vulnerable to infection. In fact, it is akin to the first dose of a vaccine. Babies should ideally be fed only breast milk for the first six months of their lives, because this milk is the best source of nutrition the child can get. Also, the immunological, social and economic benefits of breast milk are many.
According to the 2016 Global Nutrition Report, the economic returns on investments preventing malnutrition are as high as $16 for every $1 invested. By that calculation Bihar, which reports some 27 lakh births every year, will be able to save 8.1 billion rupees if all these newborns are fed only breast milk for six months.
Research published in the Lancet journal says that breastfed children fare well at studies; they have a better intelligence quotient and are generally more productive later in life. They also tend not to contract pneumonia or diarrhoea, which in turn can save their families and the state the treatment costs.
World Breastfeeding Week is held in 120 countries in the first week of August to improve the health of babies around the world.