In a first, the only paediatric hospital in Kashmir, GB Pant Hospital, has started teaching mothers as how to breastfeed their babies.
Under Infant and Young Child Feeding State Resource Centre (IYCF), the designated doctors at the hospital give lessons and practically train mothers about the baby care.
“IYCF is a face-to-face counselling program,” Dr Rubana, IYCF counsellor said, “the primary objective of it is to evaluate the effect of peer counselling by mothers in improving the infant and young child feeding practices in Kashmir.”
The program was launched before a year ago, however, it was started only this month.
Asserting that nutrition being a very important component of health of a child, Dr Rubana informed, “mothers’ milk develops 40% of child’s immune system while as immunizations only 14% of it.”
The counselling program is an addition to the existing Nutrition and Rehabilitation Centre (NRC).
While briefing the purpose of the program, Dr Rubana told Kashmir Life, “Malnutrition is one of the main underlying causes of under-five deaths.” “Exclusive breast feeding during first 06 months and continued mother feed for next 02 years with complimentary diet at six month could contribute significantly in reducing childhood Malnutrition.”
She also said that this program is established to make “mothers learn as how to breastfeed their babies and why to breast feed them”. “We make them aware of its importance as it can reduce child mortality by 15%,” she added.
Since breastfeeding is avoided by mothers for various reasons like social pressures, or working mothers’ tight schedule, due which they prefer bottle feeding. “In our hospital we have a notion that ‘bottles are bombs’,” said Dr Iram, Medical officer of NRC. “We don’t only do counselling of mothers but of their relatives like husbands and in-laws as well.”
Sensitizing mothers of the problems that can occur if breastfeeding is not done, the counsellors “ensure family support to the mothers”, “if they feel there is any family or societal pressure”.
Dr Shafaqat Khan, Medical Superintendent of GB Pant Hospital said, “besides counselling these mothers as how to feed their babies, the hospital ensures that psychological counselling of the adolescence disorders like that of behaviour is also taken care of.”
“Mothers who come to us for counselling once, are ‘trapped’, and called when they don’t visit again on the given appointment for further check-ups,” he said. “It takes us 20-25 minutes to counsel a single parent. And every day, we do counselling of around 15 mothers,” Dr Rubana informed.
“We make mothers understand the importance of breastfeeding, and make them to take health care measures. And make them understand it is much important than anything else,” the doctor-counsellor added.
(Saima Bashir is an Intern with Kashmir Life.)