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workshop on ‘Breastfeeding during COVID 19 – Challenges and Solutions’ held

6/08/2020 at 7:59 PM

Bhubaneswar, Aug 6: Bhubaneswar, 6th Aug 2020: The Department of Community Medicine and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar in collaboration with UNICEF has organized a Media workshop on Breastfeeding during Covid-19 – Challenges and Solutions. Attended by dignified expert speakers the workshop threw light on many aspects of breastfeeding, its benefits and challenges due to COVID 19.

Citing breastfeeding as the most crucial part of nutrition for a child, Prof (Dr.) Gitanjali Batmanabane, Director, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar set the context by raising issues on challenges, misconceptions and myths related to breastfeeding during COVID19. Welcoming the technical experts, she opened the discussion for technical aspects of breastfeeding such as nutrition guidelines, respiratory hygiene and proper positioning of child during COVID19. She emphasized the role of field workers and said, “Also through the workshop we are looking at the voices from the field where people are actually in direct contact of the mothers in the community”.

Speaking on the current scenario in terms of COVID 19 and breastfeeding, Dr. Sonu H Subba, Heads of dept, Department of Community Medicine and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar said, “although the world is affected vastly with COVID cases, the process of giving birth to baby is going on as it’s a physical process and breastfeeding is also a part of it.” She threw light on how COVID could affect breastfeeding of infants and young children across the social classes due to many reasons.

Elaborating on WHO/UNICEF guideline on breastfeeding during COVID19 pandemic Mr. Sourav Bhattacharjee, Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF Odisha said, “Mother and baby to be nursed together as far as possible and breastfeeding to be initiated within one hour of delivery irrespective of COVID status. However, the mother should put on facemask and practice hand hygiene before each feeding.”  

Speaking on benefits of breastfeeding, Mr. Bhattacharjee said, “Breastfeeding prevents 20% of newborn deaths, prevents 13% of under 5 deaths, 11times lesser chance of diarrheal mortality, 15 times lesser chance of pneumonia related mortality benefits on raising IQ, prevention of non-communicable disease, lesser hospital stay of new born and maternal benefits (cancer prevention).”

Appreciating Odisha’s improvement in IYCF (Infant and Young Child Feeding) practices between NFHS-III & NFHS-IV, Mr. Bhattacharjee presented the current status and stated, “sixty nine per cent of children are breastfed within 1 hour of birth, sixty six per cent children are exclusively breastfed till 6 months and fifty six per cent of children aged 6-8 months who have accessibility to complementary foods which are very encouraging figures”.

Enlightening on tackling issues regarding breastfeeding during pandemic, Dr. Pankaj Mohanty, Associate Professor, Dept of Neonatology, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar explained, “Proper Breastfeeding would lead to a healthy child who would grow up to healthy future of the society. At this time of COVID era, breastfeeding is absolutely safe for both child as well as the mother when done with proper precautions. The mother needs to wash her hands thoroughly before holding the child for breastfeeding, following respiratory hygiene, social distancing from others and ensuring clean and sanitized surrounding. Separation of baby from mother is not needed unless baby is symptomatic and need ICU care. Breastfeeding is particularly effective against infectious disease because it strengthens the immune system by transferring antibodies from the mother hence is very necessary for the child.” He also emphasized on proper holding and positioning of the child while breastfeeding.

Highlighting the myths and realities associated with breastfeeding and COVID 19, Dr. Swayam Pragyan Parida, Associate Professor, Dept of CM&FM, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar said, “There are numbers of myths floating around at this time of COVID which includes not breastfeeding the child if mother is sick or COVID+ but the fact is it depends upon the kinds of illness and infact mother’s milk itself acts as a treatment to the child. Another myth is do not feed the child with colostrum, while the fact is colostrum is the first dose of vaccine for the child as it is rich in antibodies & micronutrients like Vit-A & K and helps in boosting immunity in the new born”.

Speaking on the field implementation of breastfeeding guidelines, Medical Officer, Rural Health Training Centre Tangi & Frontline health care provider Ms. Kanchan Mallik and Susmita Dora said, “even during the lockdowns the frontline workers have reached the mothers at their houses to educate them on proper breastfeeding, positioning of child, complementary feeding and also maintaining face and hand hygiene while breastfeeding”.

Explaining the role of media in creating awareness at this of pandemic, Ms. Radhika Srivastava, Communication Specialist, UNICEF, Odisha said, “The trust of people on media has increased particularly at this time of pandemic according to a report. As people are completely dependent upon media for COVID related information and there are so many unauthentic sources present at this point of time, the mainstream media’s responsibility to come up with accurate information with utmost clarity has increased.”

Appreciating such initiative by AIIMS Bhubaneswar and UNICEF, Sr. Journalist Mr. Manish Kumar said, “This is a great initiative as media gets widely informed about the core issues through such programs. Breastfeeding is just one issue though it’s important but there are many public health issues which needs to be intervened and put light on keeping COVID pandemic in mind. There are still many darks spots in several issues as far as technical understanding is concerned. I suggest AIIMS being a premium health care facility of the country should start speaking out more frequently.”

August first week is observed as World Breast Feeding week every year to improve the practices among the mothers of small children and enable the creation of a supportive environment for successful breastfeeding of young babies. This year’sbreastfeeding week theme is “Support breastfeeding for a healthy planet”.

Multi-pronged efforts are needed to build awareness, mobilize and inspire different stakeholders for concerted actionto improved breastfeeding practices in Odisha. In this regard an online media workshop will be organized on August 6th, 2020 jointly by the Dept of Community Medicine and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar and UNICEF along with technical experts from the RCAPHN (Resource Center for Advanced Public Health and Nutrition) Cell. The objective of the media workshop is to sensitize the media on the importance of breastfeeding during COVID 19, the challenges and highlight success stories.

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