Breastfeeding count within first hour remains low in India

New Delhi: In India, while over 79 per cent of women deliver in a health institution, only 41.6 per cent of them breastfeed within the first hour, Unicef said on Thursday.

The UN body released a new analysis on the number of babies missing out on breastfeeding which found that approximately 7.6 million babies each year were not breastfed globally.

The analysis noted that babies were much more likely to be breastfed at least once in low- and-middle-income countries like Bhutan (99 per cent), Madagascar (99 per cent) and Peru (99 per cent) than those born in Ireland (55 per cent), the US (74 per cent) or Spain (77 per cent).

The US alone accounts for more than one-third of the 2.6 million babies in high-income countries who were never breastfed.

According to the Unicef, 95 per cent children in India at some point were breast fed in their early years.

“The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data indicates that 54.9 per cent children are exclusively breastfed and exclusive breastfeeding is on an average for 2.9 months. Use of water and other fluids is one the main reasons for discontinuation of exclusive breastfeeding,” a Unicef statement said.

“However, within low-and-middle-income countries, wealth disparities affect how long a mother will continue to breastfeed her child. Babies from the poorest families have rates for breastfeeding at 2 years that are 1.5 times higher than those from the richest families,” it added.

The gaps are widest in West and Central Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, where babies from the poorest families have breastfeeding rates at two years that are nearly double those from wealthier families.