Mother’s milk effectively prevents childhood pneumonia

Various doctors of Uttar Pradesh opine that mother’s milk is very important during the first six months of a baby’s life. It protects the child not only from pneumonia but also from various other infectious diseases like diarrhoea, malnutrition among others. It is also the most effective way to keep the child healthy. Infants should not be given any top feed, supplement or bottle milk during the first six months. According to a study, children who are not breastfed during the first six months have five times higher risk of mortality due to pneumonia than those who are exclusively breastfed during the first six months.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recommended that exclusive breastfeeding is the sole source of a child’s nutrition for the first six months. 44% infant mortality under one month of age is due to want of exclusive breastfeeding.

According to Dr KK Verma, Senior Paediatrician, District Hospital, Bahraich, “Mother’s milk has vitamins and colostrums (first milk) which plays a major role in protecting children from pneumonia and other infections and in keeping them healthy.  Hence it is very important that every mother exclusively breastfeeds her child for the first six months. Children should not be given any top feed because the quality which mother’s milk has is not present in any other thing.”

Dr PK Mishra, Senior Gynaecologist, District Hospital, Bahraich, also opines, “Mother’s milk protects the child from various infections and disorders hence it is the best form of nourishment. Nothing else can be better than mother’s milk. Hence we advise all to-be mothers who visit our hospital to exclusively breastfeed their child for the first six months and not give any other milk or bottle feed.”

According to Dr Kumud Anup, Paediatrician, Lucknow, “Mother’s milk is the best milk. It not only prevents infectious diseases like diarrhoea and gastroenteritis (burning sensation in the stomach), but also helps in the physical development of the child. It also increases child’s immunity and body’s resistance for other diseases. Hence mother’s milk is complete nutrition for the child during the first six months. There is no need to give any other food supplement to the child.”

According to Dr KK Verma and Dr PK Mishra of Bahraich District Hospital, approximately 70% mothers who visit their hospital do breastfeed their child. Dr Mishra also asserts, “Urban mothers are not able to breastfeed their children because of several reasons: Working mothers cannot breastfeed their child on time, others do not exclusively breastfeed their child or some do not want to. There is need to educate and mobilise common masses in this regard. It has been seen that if the doctor appropriately advises the mothers, they do follow it and breastfeed their child.”

Whereas on one hand the doctors of the Bahraich District hospital opine that most mothers breastfeed their children, on the other hand there are some beliefs prevalent in the society according to which a newborn child is given goat’s milk, water or something else even before mother’s milk. This is evident from the fact that a mother who brought her three day old child suffering from pneumonia to the Bahraich district Hopital says, “We are feeding our child with goat’s milk because it is our family’s old tradition that newborn child is given goat’s milk initially.” Another mother of two and a half year old child sufferer of pneumonia stated that she could not breatfeed her child because milk was not being produced at that time.

This kind of practice that prevails in our society is a big obstacle to the proper development of children. In fact it is a curse. There is need to mobilise not only doctors but also mothers in this regard. It has often been noticed that when doctors advise their patients and explain them well about the importance of breastfeeding, mothers heed to their advice and breastfeed their children. There is lack of awareness in the society. We need to educate mothers and make them aware. This will ensure a wholesome change in the society.

Rahul Dwivedi – CNS
(Translation: Somya Arora – CNS)