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50% pregnant women, parents targeted by misleading baby food marketing: WHO

  • Published
    24th Feb, 2022

According to WHO, the sales of formula milk industry more than doubled in the last two decades and misleading campaigns targeted at pregnant women and new parents may be a major driving factor.


WHO recommendations on breastfeeding:

  • WHO and UNICEF recommend that children initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life – meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water. 
  • Infants should be breastfed on demand – that is as often as the child wants, day and night. No bottles, teats or pacifiers should be used. 
  • From the age of 6 months, children should begin eating safe and adequate complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond.

Importance of breastfeeding:

  • Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival.
  • Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants.
  • It is safe, clean and contains antibodies which help protect against many common childhood illnesses.
  • Breastmilk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs later on. 
  • Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life.
  • Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Status of breastfeeding:

  • As per WHO reports, only 44 per cent of babies less than six months old are exclusively breastfed.
  • The National Family Health Survey-5 data show that there has been a decline in early breastfeeding in as many as 12 of the 22 surveyed States and Union Territories.

Initiatives to promote breastfeeding:

  • The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA)was established in 1991 to create awareness about the importance of breastfeeding.
  • In 1992, WABA in coordination with UNICEF introduced World Breastfeeding Weekduring the first week of August every year.
  • India enacted the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods Act in 1992 with stringent regulations.

Steps to improve breastfeeding in India:

  • Governments must allocate specific funds, rigorously implement the law, invest in educating parents and health workers and involve civil society organisations and the media in spreading awareness.
  • The government can establish breast milk banks in various parts of the country.
  • The government can provide lactating mothers with subsidised breast milk pump equipment, and setting up exclusive facilities to breastfeed will prove to be beneficial for breastfeeding.
  • Both the mother and new born are vulnerable for the first 12 weeks. Therefore, assistance from the partner is indispensable during this time. However, Indian law only allows for 15 days of paternity leave. It is imperative to extend this to 12-16 weeks.
  • MAA (Mother's Absolute Affection): A nationwide flagship programme of Breastfeeding to ensure adequate awareness is generated among masses, especially mothers, on the benefits of breastfeeding.
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