Women's Month: Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed regardless of HIV status

Breastfeeding challenges: Paediatrician urges mothers to seek medical help early

HIV positive, breastfeeding mothers are given a fixed-dose combination drug that is a combination of two or more antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in one pill which allows them to also exclusively breastfeed their babies, preventing a mother-to-child transmission during the infant feeding period. With no additional burden on household income, breastfeeding is a low-priced way of feeding babies and contributes to poverty reduction.

The report by World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) states that overall women in high income countries are far less likely to breastfeed than those in poorer countries. Even a delay of a few hours after birth could result in life-threatening consequences.

Breast milk provides babies with proteins, fats, vitamins, and other nutrients.

However, there are several other barriers to breastfeeding children including ignorance of benefits of breastfeeding, improper advice from friends and family leading to supplement breast milk with formula, lack of support for working mothers from employers in providing environment conducive for breastfeeding, and lack of trained health workers who can guide new mothers about the right techniques of breastfeeding.

Regulating an industry that makes profits on the back of women choosing not to breastfeed is a good start.

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Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore said: "When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything".

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from August 1-7 to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.

To promote breastfeeding among mothers, India has enacted the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods Act, (IMS Act) 2003 that regulates production, supply and distribution of infant milk substitutes. It also offers a quiet relaxed time for mother and baby to bond.

In Egypt, caesarean section rates more than doubled between 2005 and 2014, increasing from 20 per cent to 52 per cent. A study across 51 countries noted that early initiation rates were significantly lower among newborns delivered by caesarean section. "Babies room-in" is another care model in which the newborn stays in the same room as the mother throughout the entire duration of their stay at the hospital.

4 has revealed that only 30.7 per cent of mothers initiate breastfeeding within an hour of birth despite the fact that about 90 per cent of mothers deliver in institutions. In many cases, babies are separated from their mothers immediately after birth and guidance from health workers is limited.

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