Chandigarh: Only 53 per cent of children under three years are breastfed within one hour of birth in Punjab, which should be more than 90 per cent.
Also, only 55.5 per cent of them are exclusively breastfed for up to six months.
The fact came to light in a panel discussion, organised by Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) chapter of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics and the Human Milk Bank Association (HMB), as part of World Breastfeeding Week that is observed from August 1 to August 7 to raise awareness on the significance of breastfeeding and also encourage people to nurture and promote the practice.
Speaking on an ideal Diet for working breastfeeding mothers, Balraj Yadav, pediatrician and joint organising secretary with the IYCF, said all mothers can continue to breastfeed exclusively as a working mother for the first six months with the strategies most suitable to them depending upon the circumstances.
If possible, the baby can be taken along to the workplace, especially if a creche facility is available near the workplace.
However, if the workplace is near to the residing place one may be able to go home and breastfeed during breaks or ask the caretaker to bring the child to the workplace for it, he said.
In case the workplace is far and the baby cannot be taken along, benefits of exclusive breastfeeding can still be given to the baby by expressing breast milk soon after the baby is born. Working mothers can express milk before going to work and leave it for their baby.
Yadav said the caregiver should be taught to give breast milk properly and carefully to the baby when the mother is away for work.
Expressed breast milk stays in a good condition for at least eight hours even during summers when kept in a cool and dark place, and 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Another expert, H.B. Mallikarjuna demonstrated how most babies born with a cleft lip (and no cleft palate) feed well without any special equipment. The only change needed might be positioning the nipple so the baby can latch.
He said in the presence of a cleft palate, breastfeeding in the traditional manner is often not recommended, but there are alternative methods for providing breast milk to the baby with appropriate equipment.
According to Lalan Bharti, the added advantages of breast milk to low birth weight babies are that they are less prone to sepsis and have better weight gain and head growth with improvement in neurodevelopment outcome.
Moreover, the mortality rates are lowered in these babies compared to formula-fed babies.
Kanya Mukhopadhyay of the Department of Paediatrics in the PGI in Chandigarh said the WHO and UNICEF recommend initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, feeding infants only breast milk for the first six months and continued breastfeeding up to two years or beyond, with the introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary solid foods at six months.