India Lacks Better Environments For Breastfeeding Women And Their Infants: Report
- IWB Post
- August 8, 2018
In the Fifth Report of Assessment of India’s Policy and Programmes on Infant and Young Child Feeding, it was found that India has made little progress when it comes to having better environments for women to feed their babies.
Though several small steps have been taken by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry for Women and Child Development for the betterment of infant and child nutrition, an overall official policy hasn’t been adopted. It was also found that the Baby Friendly Hospitals Initiative, a worldwide programme of the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund, was replaced with the health ministry’s programme called Mother’s Absolute Affection. Under the latter, accreditation is not provided to hospitals that are baby friendly and private sector institutions, where many deliveries and Cesarean sections take place, are not included in the program.
India has also been unable to regulate the marketing of breastmilk substitutes since the last assessment even though there is a strong law on infant milk substitutes since 1992. It’s now the duty of the NGOs, on whom the authorized government officers depend on, to check if the law is being followed.
India’s performance in providing support for mothers and community outreach, disseminating information on infant and child feeding, feeding children with HIV and feeding children during emergencies has also been less than satisfactory.
But if one is to look at maternity protection, India has made a significant improvement after the Maternity Benefits Act 2017 was passed. Though the maternity leave for women increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks, it does not cover a large number of women working in the informal sector.
In order to improve nutrition standards, India needs to improve its Infant and Child Feeding guidelines and convert them into policy. The Infant Milk Substitutes Act should be effectively enforced and specific attention should be given to the Maternity Benefit Act to include women in the informal sector as well as the Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana should be applied universally.