2008-Press Releases

BPNI-IBFAN India released its India Report


New Delhi 9 December 2008: Is India destined to fall short of its Millennium Development Goal 4 for reducing child mortality? The 2008 India Report on the State of Breastfeeding/infant feeding policy and programme trends in the country (http://worldbreastfeedingtrends.org/report/WBTi-India-Assessment-Repor-2008.pdf ), released today by Sh. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Minister for Panchayati Raj, reveals the dismal state of support to women for breastfeeding and the lack of will to invest in this most effective intervention for saving newborn

and infant lives and preventing early malnutrition.

The India Report is an outcome of the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) (www.worldbreastfeedingtrends.org) launched in 51 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America in 2008 by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) Asia (www.ibfanasia.org ) , to track, assess and monitor policies and programmes to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

According to the report India stands in YELLOW band, in a grid of Red, Yellow, Blue and Green in ascending order of performance. In the Report Card issued along with the report, India gets 69 out of total of 150, not much has changed since 2005 when such an assessment was first done(http://worldbreastfeedingtrends.org/reportcard/India.pdf).

The India Report (http://worldbreastfeedingtrends.org/reportcard/India-reportcard-2008.pdf) is the result

of an assessment of policies and programmes related to protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding, based on government documents and information given by the government under RTI as recently as September/October 2008. The Report reveals that India has no concrete policy or budget line for these activities and highlights deficiencies in programmes designed to support breastfeeding women. For example very little support is available to a woman to continue her work as well as breastfeed her baby optimally, or

for a woman caught up in a disaster situation. With food prices rising, the global economy in crisis, and the contaminated baby milk scandal still impacting thousands of lives, now, more than ever, the breastfeeding

right of every woman and her child for health and adequate nutrition should be at the top of every agenda.

India’s rates for optimal breastfeeding practices are dismal. According to NFHS-3, just 24 per cent of newborns start breastfeeding within one hour of birth. Only 46 per cent of infants less than six months of age are exclusively breastfed, and exclusive breastfeeding rapidly goes down from about 70% in the first month to

27% in the sixth month. The percentage of children age 6-9 months who are given complementary foods is

56 per cent. India is a signatory to the Convention on Rights of the Child, and Government of India did make some commitments at the CRC review in 2004. The CRC committee made its recommendations then, that

India should tackle child malnutrition including breastfeeding.

According to Mani Shankar Aiyar, Minister of Panchayti Raj, “The report highlights deficiencies in all areas that require action, justifying a highly coordinated and budgeted activity for achieving optimal breastfeeding”. He further emphasized that “Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) can play an indispensable role in propagating, supporting and sustaining initiatives aimed at optimal breastfeeding” .

In 2007, in his Independence Day speech (http://bpni.org/docments/PM-Speech-eng-August%2015.pdf ),

the Prime Minister made a commitment to the Nation to wipe out child malnutrition and cited three additional steps that India should take, i) infants should be optimally breastfed, ii) safe drinking water and iii) good

health care. Government of India has now set up the Prime Minister’s National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges obviously to operationalize this commitment. The India Report 2008 provides the framework for action on nutrition beginning with the birth of a baby. Said Dr Arun Gupta, a pediatrician and member of the Prime Minister’s National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges, “it is very encouraging step forward, the setting up of the council, to give thrust to nutrition. It should, however take breastfeeding and infant feeding issues on an urgent priority. This could convert PM’s vision on wiping out child malnutrition into reality”.

Says Ms Ann Ollestad Ambassador of Norway, who breastfed both her children, “In Norway breastfeeding

has been re-established with urban, well-educated women taking the lead. (the Norwegian government has two ministers who have actively breastfed (Brustad/ Pedersen), the Royal Family have also been active advocates for breastfeeding. …In today’s world one cannot take Breastfeeding for granted as this practise is vulnerable in modern societies. Breastfeeding must be a priority of a nation’s health policy. Every country should develop a policy to promote, protect and support breastfeeding according to the WHO global strategy on infant and young child”.

According to Dr Vandana Prasad, a well known community pediatrician who works for Public Health Resource Network, “Though there has been some progress in the provision of maternity entitlements for women in the central government services, it only serves to bring into sharper focus the discrimination against over 95% working women who work in the informal sector and have no recourse to maternity leave whatsoever. Obviously, not only is this a great injustice, but also a great hurdle to improvements in child survival”.

Exclusive breastfeeding demands that the mother and baby should be close to each other for the first six months of life. Health services should be ready in a sense of their capacity to support and assist women skillfully to begin breastfeeding within one hour of birth, exclusively breastfeed for six months, and continue

to breastfeed thereafter while adding adequate and appropriate other foods to the baby’s diet.  Crèches at worksites run by adequately trained persons are essential for maintaining proximity between women and their babies so that exclusive and continued breastfeeding can be carried out. However this facility is totally unavailable to most women working in the private, informal and unorganized sectors, says Radha Holla,

an activist working with IBFAN Asia.

India has good legislation to protect breastfeeding from commercial sector; it just needs to be enforced effectively. The report recommends how one can support women during difficult circumstances even like disasters and HIV and calls for a comprehensive policy direction, coordination, budgetary provision, and action in all ten areas found deficient.

For more information please contact:

* Dr. Arun Gupta, Mobile: 9899676306, Res: 011-27026426,

  Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

* Dr. Vandana Prasad, [email protected] , 9899155225

Office Address: Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI). BP-33, Pitampura, Delhi 110 034. Phone: 011-27343608, Telefax:   011-27343606, website : www.bpni.org Email: [email protected]


Of the 9.7 million under-five deaths globally, 2.1 million are in India alone. 27 million births occur every year in India out of which 1.7 million children die before one year of age and 1.08 million newborns die within one month of age. Most of these deaths during first few months are related to sub optimal breastfeeding. Early breastfeeding within one hour can reduce newborn infections by 6 times; exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months can reduce diarrhea and pneumonia by 3 and 2.5 time s respectively. Breastfeeding is thus an important issue for child survival; we can certainly hope to reduce infant mortality if optimal breastfeeding rates are enhanced.   

* About IBFAN / www.ibfan.org

The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) works around the world to reduce infant and young child morbidity and mortality, aiming to improve the health and wellbeing of babies and young children, their mothers and their families, through the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding and optimal infant feeding practices.

* The IBFAN Asia regional work is coordinated from the regional coordinating office in India / www.ibfanasia.org

* About the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative / www.worldbreastfeedingtrends.org

The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) is a global initiative to assess policy and programmes that support breastfeeding. By 2009, over one hundred countries will be participating in WBTi, creating an enormous database of information on policy and programmes that support breastfeeding, and thus child and maternal health. 

* This WBTi initiative is of a particular significance to India in the context of MDG-4 to reduce under-5 mortality, as early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for six months have been identified as key interventions for child survival. The WBTi process brings together governments and civil society partners to analyse the situation in their country, identify gaps that need to be addressed and develop actions to fill these gaps, on policy and programmes related to infant and young child feeding.

* Partners of the 2008 assessment: It is the second of the kind, the first being conducted in 2005. The current assessment was coordinated jointly by Public Health Resources Network and Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) /IBFAN Asia. Besides these organisations, others involved in the assessment and analysis and in developing recommendations included civil society organisations such as Mobile Crèches, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, IBFAN Asia, professional organisations such as ICMR, Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine (IAPSM), NACO, National Health Systems Resource Centre, Trained Nurses Association of India  and the Office of the Commissioners to the Supreme Court on Right to Food.