Breastfeeding Should Be A Movement, Not Just A Campaign

Written by Mahesh Rajguru, Deputy Head – Mumbai Health Institutions, mMitra

For the fourth year in a row, our mMitra Hospital team recharged their energies to create large scale awareness about breastfeeding through campaigns in the municipal hospitals on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week. We started working with one MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) hospital in 2013, and reached 20 hospitals by 2015. The first two years were focussed on talking to new and expectant mothers to enroll them in the mMitra voice call service programme.

After analysing our strategies and interacting with the hospital staff, we decided to employ the ‘tech plus touch’ model where technology is leveraged for scale and cost-effectiveness, while an on-ground presence ensures greater acceptance of the programme. Our health workers conducted various engagement and activities with beneficiaries across hospitals. We tried to create awareness among pregnant women that new mothers should demand to hold their babies soon after delivery and feed them within an hour. This is known as ‘initiation of breastfeeding’. Providing only breast milk to the child for the next 6 months is known as ‘exclusive breastfeeding.’

According to Dr. Prashant Gangal, Coordinator of Mother Support Task Force under World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, the percentage of initiation and exclusive breastfeeding is 56% and 57% respectively. It is the joint responsibility of all stakeholders to promote breastfeeding. Research has proved that breast milk protects the newborn baby from infections, decreases the chances of diarrhea and strengthens the immune system. Therefore, promoting the initiation of breastfeeding within one hour after birth and exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months should be treated with urgency.

ARMMAN launched its breastfeeding campaign on 1st August, but we are treating it more like a movement by celebrating breastfeeding throughout the year. Our hospital supervisors interact with pregnant women in antenatal care OPDs and with new mothers in postnatal care wards on a regular basis. They explain the importance of breastfeeding and the benefits for mother as well as child, and also demonstrate the correct positions.

We at ARMMAN dream about making breastfeeding a movement that reaches all segments of society and are marching in that direction with the formation of Mother Support Groups in 9 MCGM hospitals. The primary objective of these groups is to discuss issues related to breastfeeding, nutrition, immunisation, family planning, contraception. Then we chalk out action plans to address these issues and work in a coordinated manner with public health institutions and other non-government organisations for better output on indicators of maternal and child health. Through these Mother Support Groups, we motivate new and expectant mothers to enroll themselves in government hospitals, ensure early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and insist on immunisation of newborns and children till the age of five. We are striving to ensure that every woman, in both rural and urban areas, is informed and counseled so that she believes breastfeeding to be the right of the child.

Reference: ‘Balkanche Dugdhharan’; article by Dr. Sandhay Nare-Pawar; published in Dainik Divya Marathi, 29 July 2018.

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