In the face of aggressive baby food promotion and inadequate government action, BPNI is taking up the fight to support mothers to breastfeed, via policy, programme and media advocacy.
A recent UNICEF report on newborn deaths ranks India, with 25.4 deaths per 1000 births as the top contributor of newborn deaths in the world. More than 22% of these neonatal deaths can be prevented if all women are enabled to begin breastfeeding in the first hour of childbirth, which is also a global recommendation.
While India is widely perceived to be a “breastfeeding nation”, the numbers simply do not back up this claim. Recent Government data and extensive research done by the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI), shows that only about 1 of every 2 babies in India are being breastfed optimally, which includes exclusive breastfeeding (breast milk with no other foods or liquids) for the first six months of their life, followed by breastmilk and complementary foods (solid or semi-solid foods) from the age of six months onwards, and continued breastfeeding for up to at least two years of age and beyond, while receiving appropriate complementary foods.
Caught between an aggressive promotion of baby foods by companies and a lack of accurate information being made available to them, new mothers are actively being dissuaded from breastfeeding. And formula feeding is becoming the norm.
BPNI – the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, is here to change that. Through the launch of their new campaign, ‘Breastfeeding – Nourishment for Life.’, the NGO reminds us the larger role of breastfeeding – providing not just immediate nourishment, but nourishment for life.
For the last 27 years, BPNI has been actively campaigning against big formula milk brands and fighting to implement policy change. They have been successful in calling out companies like Abbott and Nestle in the recent past for sponsoring doctors through medical seminars and meetings. One of their major victories on this journey was the enactment of the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 1992 and the subsequent Amendment Act in 2003 (IMS Act).
Lack of support for mothers
Breastfeeding rates can only rise if the Government invests in policies and programmes. According to BPNI’s 2018 Assessment Report of Breastfeeding and IYCF Policy/Programmes, women lack support from all sectors that facilitate breastfeeding – maternity entitlements, dedicated budgetary allocation, HIV and infant feeding guidelines, and a disaster response policy for infants. These policies, combined with an unsupportive health system are pushing mothers to adopt unwanted harmful practices.
Support the fight
Following an ethical policy of not accepting funds from external sources and organisations with conflicting interests, BPNI has found it tough to expand and sustain its programmes, considering the vast size and population of our nation.
You can help by becoming a volunteer or giving donations, whether it’s through supporting city-specific campaigns, monitoring baby food marketers or signing petitions.
All donations are eligible for tax exemption under section 80G(5) (vi) of the IT act, 1961.
To know more about BPNI or to support the movement, visit http://www.bpni.org/
Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting breastfeeding in India. Over the years, it has mobilised doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Today, with around 3600 dedicated members, it promotes, protects and supports breastfeeding.
The Logical Indian understands the multi-faceted challenges in the Indian healthcare sector and applauds the efforts of Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) for taking up such a noble cause. Although the road ahead is filled with obstacles like lack of awareness, lack of capacity, misinformation, and aggressive marketing of infant formulas, we hope that through the efforts of a network like BPNI, India will be able to rapidly reduce the number of neonatal deaths, and lay a firm base for a happy and healthy India.
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