Ranchi, August 1: The annual drive to promote breastfeeding was today flagged off in Jharkhand at the beginning of the World Breastfeeding Week. This year's theme for the World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) is 'Breastfeeding: A Key to Sustainable Development', a UNICEF press release said.
During the week long campaign, special programmes will be organized in all 38,000 anganwadi centres of the state to cover over 16 lakh lactating mothers, 8 lakh pregnant women and about 16 lakh children below two years.
The Anganwadi workers will organize counselling sessions on breast-feeding; weigh all children below five years; and initiate complementary feeding (annaparashan) for infants who are six months old, the release said.
Speaking on the occasion, Jharkhand Minister for Women and Child Development & Social Security Lois Marandi placed emphasis on the convergent role of different government departments, front line functionaries and development partners in promoting awareness about breastfeeding in the community.
Mridula Sinha, Director General, Jharkhand Nutrition Mission (JNM) said, "The first 1000 days from pregnancy to the first two years of a child"s life are the most critical period for intervention."
M S Bhatia, Principal Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Security said, "There are 10 globally proven interventions to prevent death of children and reduce malnutrition among children.
"Most important are the three breast feeding practices: initiating breastfeeding within one hour of birth; exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of birth; and complementary feeding from the seventh month along with breast feeding," Bhatia said. Dr Madhulika Jonathan, Chief of UNICEF Jharkhand said, "Breast milk is the best and first vaccination of the baby as it contains antibodies that protects them against infections."
She said about 50-55% of deliveries in Jharkhand are in hospitals and if all hospital-born babies were breast fed within one hour of birth, the rate of initial breast feeding in the state would have touched 55%.
"But it is only 32.7% now clearly indicating that the practice is not being followed in many hospitals," Jonathan said. Dr Amitabh Kaushal, Mission Director, National Health Mission, Jharkhand called on all mothers, health workers and doctors to reject bottle feeding.