CHENNAI: The number of breastfeeding mothers has come down marginally in Tamil Nadu, one of the contributing factors for which, experts say, could be the increasing number of Caesarean section. World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August all over the world to encourage breastfeeding practise.
When compared with the data from the previous round, National Family Health Survey - 4 revealed that the number of children aged six months who are exclusively breastfed has reduced from 55.2% to 54.7%in Tamil Nadu. On the other hand, deliveries by C-section went up from 20.3 per cent to 34.1 per cent.
“No doubt, increasing elective C-section is also a contributing factor for reduction in breastfeeding. This is because the mother undergoes a lot of stress, which affects hormones. But C-section has become common because of medical complications and in most cases, the pregnant woman prefers it,” said Dr A T Arasar Seeralar, head of Neonatology department, Government Hospital for Women and Children, Egmore. In C-section where the mother will be recuperating after the surgery, first initiation of breastfeeding itself is delayed, as family and attenders would think of alternatives for breast milk, said Dr J Kumutha, expert advisor for child health, Tamil Nadu.
The hormone oxytocin, which aids in secretion of milk, will surge with uterine contract. Labour pain will kick in only when the hormone level increases, explained Dr Kumutha. “But it will not happen in elective surgeries,” she added. The resultant reduction in milk supply is the primary cause for substituting it with other food, said the doctor.
There are no comprehensive studies done on Indian population on barriers in breastfeeding. This would be done as part of Mothers Absolute Affection programme, said Dr Kumutha. The Union Health Ministry had launched the programme last year to monitor if new-borns are breastfed within the first hour of birth. Mother’s milk is important for mental wellness, cognitive skills and better IQ of child. “Law will not solve the problem; there also should be awareness of breastfeeding,” said Sugata Roy, communication specialist, UNICEF.