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Breastfeeding a must to save neonates: Experts



KATHMANDU: Health experts today said breastfeeding within first hour of birth can save neonates and can reduce reduce neonatal mortality by 22 per cent.

Lila Bikram Thapa, senior public health administrator at the Health Ministry’s Child Health Division, said breastfeeding can save more neonates and under-fives than other interventions. Addressing a programme on the occasion of the World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), he stressed the need to raise awareness among mothers to breastfeed their children. The country is marking the week with the slogan ‘understanding the past, planning the future, celebrate it and take action for the future’.

He said all newborns should be breastfed within an hour of birth and exclusively (without pre-lacteal feeds) and the baby should exclusively breastfed for six complete months (180 days). After six months, complementary foods should be given and breastfeeding continued for up to two years or beyond along with complementary food. Thapa informed that the children fed milk formula and other milk are 14 times more prone to diarrhoea and infection compared to breastfed babies. Unlike formulas, breast milk has substances, which protect babies from diseases and infections. Breastfed babies are less likely to have ear infections, diarrhoea and pneumonia. He added that breastfeeding may help protect babies against obesity, diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome. Moreover, breastfeeding enhances optimal brain development, learning, hearing and visual abilities. Breastfed child have higher IQ and perform better in school.

Badri Bhadur Khadka, director of the National Health Education, Information and Communications Centre, said public-private partnership is imperative to promote breastfeeding in both formal and informal sectors. He said breastfeeding should be promoted as it is natural and hygienic and does not require extra time to prepare.

According to the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey—2011, 70 per cent of Nepali children under six months are being exclusively breastfed and 98 per cent of children are ever breastfed. The median duration of any breastfeeding among children 0-35 months is 33.6 months while the median duration of exclusive breastfeeding is 4.2 months.

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