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World Breastfeeding Week 2007 (1-7 August )

By Deepika Srivastava

Global Theme- Breastfeeding -  The1st Hour - Save ONE  Million Babies!

In India,  the World Breastfeeding Week from 1-7 August 2007  is finding new ways to accelerate reductions in neonatal and infant mortality, by popularizing the concept of promoting early initiation of  breastfeeding- using the global  theme “ Breastfeeding -  The1st Hour - Save One Million Babies”. This is in recognition of the criticality of ensuring early initiation of exclusive breastfeeding immediately after birth, with skin to skin contact- within one hour- for promoting neonatal, infant and child survival. This is an opportunity to mobilize public support for reinforcing the importance of colostrum feeding and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
In India, The Infant Milk Substitutes and its  Amendment Act 2003 and National Guidelines 2006 provide powerful policy instruments to protect, promote and support optimal Infant and Young Child Feeding practices. This contributes to fuilfilling children’s rights to survival, growth and development, in addition to a means of contributing towards achievement of Millennium  Development  Goals .
This year, during the  week,  emphasis is on empowering families, young mothers and communities with information on the early initiation of breastfeeding and correct breastfeeding practices.

Early initiation of exclusive breastfeeding- within one hour : Emerging trends

Scientific evidence reveals that malnutrition has been responsible, directly or indirectly, for more than 50% of all deaths among children under five years annually. Over 2/3 of these deaths are associated with inappropriate feeding practices and occur during the first year of life.

Optimal infant and young child feeding practices – especially early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life – help ensure young children the best possible start in life. NFHS III Survey, 2005-2006, reveals that 23.4% children under 3 years are breastfed within one hour of birth compared to 16.1% children in 1998-99; and only 46.3% children in the age group 0-5 months are exclusively breastfed.
Although there is a marginal improvement of 7.4% in the early initiation of breastfeeding in 7 years as compared to NFHS-II, this figure is still abysmally low. Complementary feeding rates have increased from 33.5 % to 55.8 % in the same period.
This highlights the need for accelerating action to improve early and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life – to enhance young child survival, growth and development outcomes.

Universal early initiation of breastfeeding  within one hour  reduces neonatal mortality by 22 %

World leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000 agreed on the critical 4th Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to reduce deaths of under five children by two thirds, of which 38% occur in neonates. Of the 136 million babies born every year, 4 million die in the first month of life:

Neonatal deaths are the main barrier to attaining the 4th MDG. This can only be achieved if neonatal deaths are reduced by half. This necessitates both maternal and child health interventions. Early initiation of breastfeeding would protect against infection, diarrhoea and pneumonia, the usual causes of death, resulting in enormous survival benefits.

In India, neonatal mortality constitutes nearly two-thirds of infant mortality and around half of under-five mortality. The neonatal mortality rate was 37 in 2005.( SRS 2006) and the Infant Mortality Rate was 58 per 1,000 live births.

Recent research evidence from Ghana highlights that neonatal deaths will be reduced by 22%, if all newborns are exclusively breastfed within an hour of their birth. Earlier evidence published in the LANCET conclusively shows that young child mortality can be reduced globally by 13 %, and  in India by 16% - through the universal practice of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.

India can save 250,000 babies annually - if mothers could begin exclusive breastfeeding within one hour of birth. India’s Tenth plan goal for early initiation of breastfeeding is to reach 80%. A societal movement is needed, mobilizing families and communities, community based organizations, voluntary agencies, media,  governments, people’s representatives and development partners.

Using the momentum of the World Breastfeeding Week

UNICEF and WHO  have joined  the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action  and international NGO partners, and its affiliates in 120 countries in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, 1-7 August 2007. (For details see link files and AMV letter.pdf and WHO letter.pdf ).
In India, the observance of the World Breastfeeding Week was initiated by a National Expert Group Meeting on Infant and Young Child Feeding, organized by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to formulate operational guidelines for promoting this through the health system and the National Rural Health Mission, converging with Integrated Child Development Services and other partners.
State specific acceleration strategies are being evolved through a series of activities, including Regional workshops on Infant and Young Child Feeding, being organized by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, in partnership with  BPNI and UNICEF. Building on the momentum being generated during the World Breastfeeding Week, these will be scheduled over the next quarter of 2007.

Action Ideas for the World Breastfeeding Week

Let us all take action - help and support mothers to have skin-to-skin contact with their babies and to begin breastfeeding immediately- within one hour of birth.
· Call upon each family member to support at least one mother to give up the practices of giving any other foods/liquids to baby before beginning breastfeeding.
· Call upon all fathers to provide one hour in a day to support mothers during pregnancy, at birth and later during the first year.
· Call upon all doctors and nurses to pledge at least one hour weekly to support one mother initiate breastfeeding timely.
· Call upon family/community level health and child care providers to support at least one mother weekly.
· Call upon media to give one hour/space in a month to propagate this message, all round the year.
· Call upon governments, international and national agencies to include it as one basic indicator of progress in newborn and young child health and development.

In a world where more than 10 million children die before their fifth birthday due to preventable causes, and undernutrition is  rampant and associated with over half of childhood deaths - there is no time to waste ! Lets assure young children the best start to life - starting prenatally, at birth and in the critical first hour of life  - leading on to the  first days,  first weeks , first months and year of life- WHO 2007.



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