Tuesday, August 11, 2015

NEW DELHI: Experts today called upon organisations and employers to create a  workplace environment which is  supportive and respectful of a woman's decision to breastfeed their  babies.

On the occasion of World Breastfeeeding Week, which is being  observed from August 1 to 7, the experts said fathers and other family members  should also strive towards providing a positive environment to the mothers so  that they continue with breastfeeding which is a must for newborns for the first 6 months of life.

According to National Family Health Survey,  Indian mothers stop breastfeeding at the fourth month itself despite studies  proving that children, who are sufficiently breastfed, have fewer ear  infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhoea.

"Many women have expressed that they  find it very difficult to balance all the new roles and responsibilities after  delivery. The care of the newborn, coupled with household and professional  obligations are too much. This is where a strong supportive environment could
make a difference.

"There is evidence that support from the family and  workplace has a significant positive impact on the mother in her choice to  breastfeed to the child," Dr Satish Saluja, senior  consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here, said.

According to Dr   Virender Kumar, senior  consultant, Neonatology and Pediatrics at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, breastfeeding is  mistakenly considered to be confined to women and babies, but fathers play a  much bigger role as research states that their support has a considerable impact  on the mother's decision to continue breastfeeding

"Fathers need not be passive or neutral observers, they have tremendous  potential to facilitate the success of breastfeeding. Every father should be  properly counselled on how breastfeeding is going to benefit their kid in a long  run. The more he knows about breastfeeding and is willing to help and encourage  her, the more likely the mothers will breastfeed successfully," Kumar  said.

Fathers can start by creating and providing a positive environment  towards breastfeeding by motivating the mothers, he said.

 Grandmothers play an equally important role  and their parenting experience can influence the mother's decision to not only  initiate but continue breastfeeding. Her assistance in taking care of the baby  and domestic responsibilities can make a big difference to the mother,  especially in the early months, said Dr Kumar.

In today's world more and more women are working in order to supplement their  family income and sometimes they are forced to choose between the two and tend  to discontinue breastfeeding the newborn. A positive work environment can,  however, ease the mother of such troubles, said Dr Pramod Jog, President, Indian  Academy of Pediatrics.

"Organisations need to create a workplace  environment that is supportive and respectful of a woman's decision to  breastfeed. The employer can provide adequate and flexible maternity leave, along with making provisions of  private and hygienic lactation rooms where mothers can express milk.

"There is a need to create awareness not only among young mothers and their  families but also the society at large. It is disturbing and a cause for concern  that young mothers are giving up breastfeeding. But working mothers are forced  to resume work leaving their kids with caretakers," Dr Jog said.

"Mother's milk is very essential for a child's growth and health. It is time we  introspect what is important not only for the health of our children but the  future health of our country," asserted Dr Jog.

As per the District  Level Household and Facility Survey done by Ministry of Health and Family  Welfare in 2007-08, only 12.8 per cent of children between 0 to 5 months of age  receive exclusive breastfeeding. Also, only 8.9 per cent children between the  age group of 6-35 months are exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months.

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