Breastfeeding in India: Why we must thank some famous mums for raking up the issue

Bravo to these celeb mums who are spreading a positive message about exclusive breastfeeding in India! Read on to know more.

In August this year, just weeks after giving birth, new mum and supermodel Lisa Haydon posted a very important message on her Instagram page.

Along with a picture of breastfeeding her son Zack Lalvani, Haydon shared her experience as a new mother and explained what it meant for her to nurse her child.

Lisa's special message about exclusive breastfeeding

"I've gotten loads of posts asking about life after having my son... esp to do with weight and fitness. Seeing as it's World Breastfeeding Week- time to give some credit where credit is due. Breastfeeding has played such a big part in getting back into shape after giving birth to my baby. Breastfeeding has been challenging+time consuming (literally hours spent everyday trying to stimulate milk supply) but it's such a beautiful way to bond and connect with your child plus all the nutritional benefits that your child gets from your milk," she wrote.

A post shared by Lisa Haydon (@lisahaydon) on

While her message encouraging exclusive breastfeeding came an opportune time (when India was ranked low in breastfeeding practices), she received a lot of backlash for her 'crude' photograph.

And in the process, many people missed a crucial point- exclusive breastfeeding can reduce infant mortality rates and protect newborns from ear infections, respiratory illnesses as well as bouts of diarrhea.

These advantages therefore, make it more important for us to praise women such as Lisa Haydon as well as Lara Dutta, Renuka Shahane, Raveena Tandon and Sonali Bendre among others who have been vocal about the need to breastfeed.

Overall investment in breastfeeding in India low

Unfortunately for India, less than 50 percent kids are breastfed exclusively within the first hour of birth, even though we are a breastfeeding friendly society.

In fact, a report by UNICEF and WHO in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective states that in India investment on exclusive breastfeeding is extremely low.

During the release of the report, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake stated, "Breastfeeding is one of the most effective—and cost effective—investments nations can make in the health of their youngest members and the future health of their economies and societies. By failing to invest in breastfeeding, we are failing mothers and their babies—and paying a double price: in lost lives and in lost opportunity."

Although rate of exclusive breastfeeding in India has gone up slightly

Incidentally, this year came close on heels of a report by National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 that stated that "About 55 percent of country’s children are exclusively breastfed, which was 46 percent till about a decade ago."

So why is breastfeeding so important? Why are celebrities and major health organisations emphasizing on its need? Well, because exclusive breastfeeding has many advantages for a newborn as well as a new mum.

Why you must exclusively breastfeed as well!

We spoke to Dr Varsha Phadke and Dr Sujata Kanhere, head of department, Pediatrics and Neonatology at K.J. Somaiya Medical College and Hospital, Mumbai, to understand the urgent need for breastfeeding in India.

"Breast milk is the best for the child. Though milk formulas are available they is no replacement of natural breast milk," begins Dr Phadke who also lists its advantages for both - the mum and the newborn.

Advantages of exclusive breastfeeding in India for the baby

  • Breastfeeding reduces the incidence of cold, pneumonia, gastrointestinal disorders, diarrhea, and sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Colostrum, the first milk produced contains immunoglobulin’s IGA, which protects the child against various infections
  • Helps in proper growth and development
  • Breastfeeding helps in improving the IQ of the child
  • Prevents allergies
  • If baby is breastfed, there is no need to give extra water to the baby
  • Helps in providing warmth to the baby and preventing hypothermia

Advantages of exclusive breastfeeding for the mother

  • Develops bond between mother and child
  • Reduces chance of postpartum depression
  • Stimulates oxytocin production, thereby reducing chances of postpartum hemorrhage
  • Breastfeeding causes release of prolactin reducing chances of ovulation, thus acting as a natural contraception
  • Breastfeeding helps in involution of uterus, thereby assisting in maintaining the natural figure
  • Mothers who breast fed have reduced chances of menopausal osteoporosis
  • It is safe, cheap and can be easily provided

Remember, doctors recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and there after two years and beyond (as long as the mother and baby would like to continue). Also, do not forget that in order to nurse your child easily, you must also take care of your own health.

Breastfeeding mothers should eat healthy and exercise daily. Eating healthy, however, does not mean eating something special. It means that you should include green vegetables, fresh fruits, soups, proteins and plenty of fluids in your diet.

Also read: Try these 4 different postures to breastfeed your baby comfortably

(All images courtesy: Instagram)