Less than half of infants breastfed in first hour of birth


NEW DELHI: The pace of improvement in breastfeeding has been slow with less than half of children in India being breastfed in the first hour of birth, even as institutional deliveries have improved rapidly, accounting for almost 80% of all deliveries, data released from the fourth national family health survey (NFHS) shows.

The survey reveals that around 41.6% of children are being breastfed in the first hour of birth, up from 23.4% around 10 years ago.

On the contrary, institutional deliveries have jumped from 38.7% to 78.9% between NFHS-3 and NFHS-4 — indicating an increase of over 40 percentage points. Exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months of age have also increased marginally in last 10 years from 46.4% to 54.9%, the new data shows.

Breastfeeding has dropped by around 10 percentage points in children of 6-8 months age after they start receiving semi solid food. Experts say India scores the lowest in breastfeeding practices among south Asian countries. “India needs a clear plan of action with budget allocations to scale up breastfeeding and infant and young child feeding indicators,” said Arun Gupta, central coordinator for Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India.