Practice of proper breastfeeding ‘declining’

Kathmandu, August 7:

The practice of ‘exclusive breastfeeding’ is on the decline in Nepal, with only around 53 per cent of the mothers adequately feeding their children till the latter reach the age of six months, a programme was told here today.

Around 80 per cent of the mothers used to practice ‘exclusive breastfeeding’ till 1996. However, recent data at the Department of health Services (DHS) show a great fall in the number of women practicing it.

‘Exclusive breastfeeding’ is feeding babies appropriately and adequately with mothers’ milk till the children are six months old.

Almost 98 per cent of babies in Nepal are breastfed, but only half of them are fed adequately and till the required period. Moreover, baby formulas have substituted mother’s milk in modern times.

Early initiation of breastfeeding — within an hour of childbirth — helps reduce the risk of haemorrhage following a delivery. However, the DHS statistics show that only 35 per cent of mothers in Nepal practise it. Raj Kumar Pokharel, the chief of the nutrition section at the Child Health Division, said mother’s milk is the best source of nutrition for infants. “Mother’s milk contains all the nutrients necessary for the growth of babies, and at least 95 per cent of the children should be breastfed after one hour of delivery and up to a period of at least six months,” he added.

The ever increasing rate of women employment and the belief among women that their bodies get disfigured if they breastfeed their babies are two reasons that have contributed the most to the decline in the practice, Pokharel said.

“However, women should know that breastfeeding helps maintain their figure and provides 98 per cent protection against pregnancy,” he added.

“We can bring down the rate of neonatal mortality by 22 per cent if we stick to proper breast feeding methods,” said Prof Prakash S Shrestha of the Institute of Medicine (IoM), speaking at a programme organised by Communication Network to highlight the breastfeeding scenario in the country.

Shrestha underscored the need to make breast-feeding a national priority.