CHENNAI: The Union government will on Friday launch a special programme to ensure mothers breastfeed their newborns within an hour after the delivery.
Named Mothers Absolute Affection (MAA), the programme aims at training all nurses in the government hospitals, village health staff and anganwadi workers to monitor if mothers feed the first secretion after delivery, called the colostrum, to the newborns.
The colostrum, a yellow secretion, is rich with antibodies that protect the children from most of the respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases.
The programme was designed after the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4, 2015-2016) found that abysmally low number of children being breastfed in the first hour. The survey found that in Tamil Nadu, only 54.7 per cent of the children under three years of age were breastfed in within one hour of birth.
The new programme is aiming to bring down the large number of children missing out their essential feed for immunity.
“These people will monitor specifically the mothers and make sure the baby is breast fed within one hour of delivery,” said an official of the National Health Mission in Tamil Nadu. The State was pallning to launch the programme in a phased manner, the official added.
Breastfeeding within one hour of birth will save one million children from death, says Dr J Kumutha, former deputy superintendent of Institute of Child Health, Egmore and current president of the National Neonatologists Forum, Tamil Nadu.
According to NFHS-4, in Tamil Nadu, 55.4 per cent children under the age of three years in urban areas are breastfed within one hour of delivery as against 54.2 per cent in rural areas.
“The NFHS-4 shows that TN has 99 per cent institutional deliveries. So, 99 per cent newborns should be breastfed within one hour. But that is not happening. Again, increasing Caesarean sections are a problem in the country. These mothers miss out on feeding within one hour of delivery,” says Job Zachariah, UNICEF State Officer for Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“Though awareness on breastfeeding among mothers has increased, we are missing out that ‘within one hour feed’ threshold. Breastfeeding within one hour will help the baby develop immunity. Not only that, when the mother’s body touches the baby, the commensal bacteria, a good bacteria in mother’s body will colonise in the baby’s skin. This will protect the baby from harmful bacteria,” adds Dr Kumutha.