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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Lactation Management - Need for Training in Indian Context

Author(s): D.K. Taneja, J.P. Dadhich*

Vol. 25, No. 1 (2000-01 - 2000-03)

Deptt of PSM, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi.
Sunder Lal Jain Hospital, Delhi

The advantages of breast feeding the body are too well known to be discussed. It is a well established fact that breast milk alone is sufficient for first 4-6 months of life. Supplemental water is not required even in hot climates during the first four months as breast milk provides for water requirement also1-3 weight loss due to such illnesses4,5

Our current concept of appropriate timing for introduction of complimentary food is based on theoretical calculation of energy requirements of the baby and energy provision by breast milk. Thus it is assumed that when the energy intake from breast milk falls below these theoretical requirements, additional energy sources need to be offered.6 For infants 6-12 months of age WHO recommends 98 kcals/kg/day. However, breastfed infants typically consume less energy.7This interesting phenomenon seems to be a volunatary self regulation of energy intake by breastfed infants8. This lower energy intake by breastfed infants does no lead to any functional impairment.6,9,10 These reports regarding lower energy intake by breastfed infants have lead to recommed initiation of complimentary foods after 4-6 months of life. National bodies like deptt. of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India, Academy of Pediarics, American Academy of Pediatrics and International declarations like the The World Summit for Children and Innocent declaration (1990) have issued similar recommendations ther substantiates the basis of these recommendations and also proves that lactation performance is not different in affluent or poor.

Early introduction of complimentary foods simply replaces breast milk without contributing to total energy intake and growth15-17 prevalent. These include late initiation of breast feeding which is associated with practice of prelacteal feeds, early introduction of animal or formula milk, infant foods, water and other fluids often using bottle to feed the infants. This situation is attributable to ignorance, misbeliefs, cultural practices, aggressive promotion of infant milk substitutes and infant foods which undermine the confidence of mothers in adequacy of breast milk and also these being considered status symbol. The training of doctors, nurses and paramedicals is also at fault due to deficiencies in the curricula and the text books. As a result instead of reassuring and guiding the mothers for successful breast feeding, they often advise top milk on slightest pretext.

Results of multi indicator cluster surveys covering 17 states in India are startling. Only 11 infants were put to breast within one hour of birth. This percentage increased to just 30% by four hours and 61% by 24 hours20 definition of late initiation of breast feeding, presuming a cut off point of four hours after delivery means that 70% infants in India are being put to breast late. Against the recommendation of exclusive breast feeding, i.e. giving breast milk only and not even water till first 4-6 months of life studies from India show alarming trends. NFHS (1992-93) revealed that only about half of 0-3 months old babies were exclusively breastfed. More than three fourth of infants (79.2%) in Delhi were given water or other fluids like top milk or fruit juice by three months of age and even 60.8% introduced these within first month them to the risk of diarrhoea and malnutrition.

Most common reason cited by mothers for early introduction of top feeds is inadequate milk21vided the baby suckles in a good position and breastfeeds often enough22 postgraduate medical and paramedical curricula, common text books of Paediatrics, Preventive and Social Medicine and Obstetrics reveal adequate stress on advantages of breast milk. However, these lack in approach to support breast feeding i.e. analyse causes of complaint by mothers that their milk is inadequate and counsel accordingly. Even knowledge about feeding during common problems such as sore or cracked nipples, flat or inverted nipples, mastitis and breast abscess is often incorrect among the doctors and paramedical workers.

All this strongly points towards need for introduction of lactation management in the undergraduate and postgraduate medical curricula and curricula for nursing and other paramedical workers.


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