Human beings love food! Human beings spend hours planning which restaurant to eat in on special occasions! We have entire industries built around food and consuming it in different settings. I take even the ambience of a restaurant into consideration while choosing where to eat. Do we call eating in a restaurant- “eating in public?” Breastfeeding is exactly the same! The baby is only eating its food! (The word breastfeeding has feed in it!)
Then why is it so hard for women to breastfeed in public?
A research paper that was published in the popular newspaper “The Hindu” suggested - Only 6% Indian mothers are comfortable breastfeeding in public. Up to 47% mothers reported uncomfortable stares as the reason and up to 90% admitted to feeding babies in washrooms and cars to avoid stares.
Shocking isn't it? Read on to know what you can do about it.
Here are some eye opening facts on breastfeeding in India:
- According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2019-20, 78.9% of infants in India are breastfed within the first hour of birth.
- NFHS 2019-20 data reveals that only 55.6% of infants under six months in India are exclusively breastfed. This falls short of the global target of 70% set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Duration of Breastfeeding:
- The same NFHS survey indicates that 48.9% of children aged 6-23 months are breastfed in India. The recommended duration for breastfeeding by WHO is up to two years or beyond.
Early Initiation and Prevalence by Region:
- There are significant regional disparities in early initiation of breastfeeding. States like Meghalaya and Tripura have high rates of early initiation (over 80%), while states like Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have lower rates (around 65%).
Factors Affecting Exclusive Breastfeeding:
- The NFHS data suggests that factors such as maternal education, socioeconomic status, and urban/rural residence influence exclusive breastfeeding rates. Mothers with higher education and better living conditions tend to practice exclusive breastfeeding more frequently.
Awareness of Breastfeeding Laws:
- A study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care in 2019 found that only 38% of mothers were aware of laws that support breastfeeding in public spaces in India.
- A survey conducted by Medela India in 2018 reported that 56% of working mothers in India face challenges in expressing breast milk at their workplace. Lack of proper facilities and awareness were some of the key reasons.
Barriers to Breastfeeding:
- A study published in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics in 2020 highlighted several barriers to breastfeeding in India, including cultural beliefs, lack of support, marketing of formula milk, and lack of knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Practices and Malnutrition:
- Malnutrition remains a concern in India. According to UNICEF, inadequate breastfeeding practices contribute to malnutrition, with 38% of children under five years of age being stunted.
Breastfeeding Promotion Efforts:
- The Indian government has launched various initiatives to promote breastfeeding, such as the "National Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding" and "Ananya," a mobile application providing information to pregnant and lactating mothers.
Why are moms so uncomfortable breastfeeding in public?
A research paper published in the International breastfeeding journal in 2019 suggested that, “Controversy remains as to whether breastfeeding should occur in public at all. Even where breastfeeding in public is seen as a woman’s choice, there are social rules that govern how it should be undertaken to make it an ‘appropriate’ activity. As a result, women need to take responsibility for others feelings, minimise the discomfort of others and ‘keep themselves safe’ if and when they breastfeed in public spaces.”
When such thoughts are published in International journals we can understand the low breastfeeding rates across the globe.
Here's how you can be zactive in breastfeeding in public!
We spoke to mothers in the Zactive mom community this month on their breastfeeding experiences. Here is a list of practical things you can do which will boost your confidence about breastfeeding your baby in public!
What does the law say about breastfeeding in public in India?
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