Breastmilk best for nutrition

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breast-milk-discoveryBANGALORE: Children, who are not fed the first breastmilk, have higher chances of undernourishment.

These are the findings of a study on —Nutrition and childhood diseases in Karnataka — conducted by R Mutharayappa of the Population Research Centre, Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC). The analysis is based on data from the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS-2 and NFHS-3) conducted during 1998-99 and 2005-06.

The data has also revealed that there was widespread discrimination against girls in feeding practices. It shows that girls were severely stunting and it was more rampant in rural areas than in urban areas.

As many as 36.8% of boys and 41.5% of girls were stunted because their mothers did not feed them the first milk, as against 30% of boys and 28.9% of girls who had first milk as infants. The first breastmilk is important because it contains colostrums, which provides natural immunity to the child.

Mothers who breastfeed within one hour of birth have more advantages than mothers who initiate breastfeeding after one hour or within a day of birth. 34% of boys and 31.2% of girls were stunted where mothers initiated breastfeeding within one hour of birth. Whereas, 36.3% of boys and 41.7% of girls were stunted in cases where mothers started breastfeeding their infants after hour, but within one day of birth.

Initiation of breastfeeding immediately after childbirth is important because it benefits both the mother and the child. But, most mothers squeeze out and discard the first milk from the breast before breastfeeding their child,” says the study.

Other findings of the study:

Incidence of childhood diseases higher among males than females.

Children of illiterate women, women working in the agricultural sector, belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, Muslims and women of low standard of living are more severely malnourished.

Undernourishment has a strong positive relationship with the mother’s education.

About one-third of the children are found to be anaemic.

Childhood morbidity is very low in households with good sanitation facility, access to purified drinking water and where the children had been given full immunization.

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