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UNBConnect: Exclusive breastfeeding of children under 6 months reaches 64 percent in Bangladesh

Md. Owasim Uddin Bhuyan
UNB Staff Writer

July 02, 2012 

There has been an increase in the level of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months in the country, from 43 percent in 2007 to 64 percent in 2011, according to a recent study report.

The report also said that among infants less than two months, 85 percent are being exclusively breastfed, while other infants are given water (6 percent), other milk (7 percent), and complementary foods (2 percent) in addition to breast milk.

The preliminary report of Bangladesh Demography and Health Survey (BDHS)-2011, conducted by National Institute of Population Research and Training, revealed the information in April 2012.

Talking to UNB on Sunday, former director of National Institute of Public Health and Nutrition (IPHN) Prof Dr Fatema Parveen Chowdhury said increase in the exclusive breastfeeding rate has been possible due to major contribution and cooperation of the concerned government and private organizations.

During her tenure (November 2006 to January 2012), Dr Chowdhury said she initially started her work prioritizing the Infant Young Child Feeding (IYCF) activities and enforcing proper implementation of the Brest Milk Substitute (BMS) Act 1984.

“More than 6,000 nurses and doctors were given orientation to specially motivate pregnant mothers to exclusively breastfeed their newborns,” she said, adding that the media has played a vital role in creating awareness about good impact of breastfeeding.

Dr Chowdhury said increase in exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months has been possible as she started two prorammes -- breastfeeding and complementary feeding –- under a single initiative.

“Many NGOs including `Alive and Thrive’, greatly helped me in this regard,” she said, adding that IYCF strategy, IYCF plan of actions and IYCF training books were also made during her tenure to expedite the activities.

“All credits for such achievement will go to the Prime Minister as she directly oversaw our activities,” the former IPHN director said, adding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already declared maternity leave for six months putting emphasis on the issue.

About the breastfeeding practices, the report said breast milk contains all the nutrients needed by children in the first six months of life.

"Supplementing breast milk before the child is six months of age is also discouraged because it increases the likelihood of contamination, and hence risk of diarrhoea.”

It said that at about the seventh month of the baby’s development, breast milk should be complemented by other solid or mushy food to provide adequate nourishment.

The report also said that the recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of life is met only by 64 percent of children under two years. Complementary foods are introduced at an early age.

“Bottle feeding is not uncommon in Bangladesh; around one in five infants (6-9 months) is fed with a bottle with a nipple.”

It noted that part of the increase (about 4 percentage points) is explained by a change in the age pattern in the sample with a higher proportion of infants 0-3 months in the 2011 sample compared to the 2007 sample. Other possible explanations include a likely influence of a national media campaign that started in December 2010 and reached peak intensity in February 2011.

Additionally, there is the possible effect of several intensive programs that focus on maternal and newborn care and child health, including improved feeding, that has been implemented for the 1-2 years before the survey and cover about 25 percent of the country's population, said the report.

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