POST TIME: 3 August, 2017 00:00 00 AM
World Breastfeeding Week
Infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life

World Breastfeeding Week

Appropriate feeding practices are essential for the nutrition, growth, development and survival of infants. Speakers said this while addressing a discussion marking the World Breastfeeding Week-2017 on Tuesday in Gaibandha, according to a report published in this newspaper. Infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, and thereafter should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues up to two years and beyond.

Unfortunately in Bangladesh the impact of days or weeks observed internationally honouring various causes is usually limited to the holding of functions and seminars primarily aimed at media consumption. At a practical level, nothing really changes on the ground. The World Breastfeeding Week, which lasts from the first of August till the seventh, is being observed in Bangladesh and we are likely to see a host of various seminars on the topic.

The realisation in the world is more elaborate after so many studies conducted on the benefits of breastfeeding and the recent Lancet series on breastfeeding, which stresses upon the need to improve exclusive breastfeeding in both low-income and high-income countries to promote child survival and health.

However the fact is even today the legal measures which are essential for the promotion of breastfeeding and discouraging the use of formula-milk remain inactive. While in the rural areas breastfeeding is the norm, in the urban areas fewer mothers are opting for the practice. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives. The reality, on the contrary, is quite different. In actual practice only about half of the toddlers aged between 20 and 23 months are breastfed, despite the recommendation that breastfeeding should continue for up to two years or beyond.

The risks of not breastfeeding include an increased incidents of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections in infancy. What’s more, people who have not been breastfed have a higher incidence of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and coeliac and Crohn’s disease.

Mothers who breastfeed also enhance their own health – breastfeeding has been linked to a reduced incidence of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And, breastfeeding is environmentally-friendly – it doesn’t produce any additional waste from manufacturing or packaging.

Bottle feeding rates are highest amongst working women, upper social strata, urban residents, and women seeking care with health professionals. There is a need to employ behaviour change strategies to discourage this trend by reaching out to women from all educational and social backgrounds.