India ranks 56th in early initiation of breastfeeding, say UNICEF, WHO

• A new report released by UNICEF and the World Health Organization has ranked Sri Lanka at the top of the list of countries with early initiation of breastfeeding.

• India ranks 56th among the 76 countries that were analyzed. The report, released ahead of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 to 7), says that only two in five newborns are breastfed within the first hour of life across the world.

• “Whether delivery takes place in a hut in a village or a hospital in a major city, putting newborns to the breast within the first hour after birth gives them the best chance to survive, grow and develop to their full potential,” says the report, which emphasizes on exclusive breastfeeding.

• Countries like Kazakhstan, Rwanda, Bhutan and Uruguay have fared much better than India, making it into the top 10. Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Montenegro are at the bottom.

• Though nearly 80% births are institutional deliveries in India, there are missed opportunities of early initiation of breastfeeding due to low awareness among healthcare staff. The data for India was taken from the fourth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4). The early initiation period has doubled as compared to NFHS 3. But more progress can be made by capitalizing on opportunities and creating awareness at the community level.

• Breastfeeding in the first hour of life is significantly important for survival. The first feed, or colostrums, is termed as the baby’s first vaccine and is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies. Continuous and exclusive breastfeeding thereafter is also important.

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