The importance of exclusive breastfeeding in providing the vital nutrients from birth to 6 months of age is undisputed. Its contribution to infant’s growth and development is unparalleled; therefore, there is an urgent need to strengthen policies, and support interventions that enable initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth and continued exclusive breastfeeding until the infant is 6 months of age. In India, there has been an improvement of early initiation of breastfeeding from 24.5% in 2006 to 44.6% in 2014 (i.e., a 1.8-fold increase) due to strengthening of policies, effective capacity building initiatives, community-based actions and strategic mass media communication. Similarly, the disaggregated district-level data from the NFHS-4 highlights that about one-third of all the districts have exclusive breastfeeding levels that are higher than 60 percent. Despite these improvements, further progress is needed to achieve the recommended standards endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Though, majority of new mothers begin breastfeeding, the exclusive breastfeeding rates decline steeply over next 6 months.
By: Patel AB, Pusdekar Y.