News article

Variation in breastfeeding practices across India

Posted:  Friday, June 03, 2016

Breastfeeding practices vary in different regions of India

Appropriate breastfeeding practices are essential for the growth and development of newborns. However, the implementation of standard breastfeeding practices is not common across India. With rising institutional deliveries, there is a growing need for healthcare providers to provide education pertaining to breastfeeding practices.

A systematic review, published in the Indian Journal of Maternal and Child Health, explored studies on local breastfeeding practices in India. The aim was to estimate the breastfeeding rates to help advocate the importance of breastfeeding in India. The study collected data on initiation of breastfeeding (IBF), prelacteal feeding (PF), colostrum feeding (CF), and exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) rates in different regions of India.

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-3, the IBF rates within one hour and 24 hours after birth were 24.5%, and 55.3%, respectively. A study conducted in Vadodara indicated that IBF within an hour was 32.6% and within 24 hours was 47.4%. In a study conducted in the state of Maharashtra, IBF rates within an hour and within 24 hours were estimated to be 24.8% and 86.0%, respectively.

The NFHS-3 study indicated that EBF rates were 50.9% and 26.4% for infants aged 0-3 months and 4-6 months, respectively. Similarly, another study from Rajkot including 462 prospective lactating mothers reported that 97% of infants at 3 months and 62% at 6 months age were on EBF. However, the Maharashtra study of 306 lactating mothers indicated that only 28.4% of the subjects were administered EBF. The same study estimated the CF and PF rates to be 91.2% and 40.2%, respectively.

In urban slums of western India, the PF and CF rates were estimated to be 35% and 75.5%, respectively. The EBF rate was 61.5% among 6-12-month-old infants, and the IBF rate was 47.5% within one hour of birth. A study conducted in Kolkata demonstrated the prevalence rate of immediate BF and PF to be 66.1% and 15%, respectively. However, another study from South India reported the rate of IBF to be 44.4% within one hour, in which 58.1% infants were on EBF for 6 months.

In conclusion, breastfeeding practices vary widely across the different regions of India. In order to enhance breastfeeding practices, ‘breastfeeding must be encouraged in lactating mothers/lactating mothers must adopt a positive attitude to breastfeeding’.; And to improve the communication as well as understanding between mothers and health care providers.

News Source: Sidhu TK. Situational analysis of breast feeding in India. Indian Journal of Maternal and Child Health. Volume 17, April - December 2015.