Breastfeeding is not easy for working mothers in CapitalA study shows 57 percent of new mothers in Valley start feeding formula milk to babies within three days of birth.
Anju Adhikari, an official at the Nutrition Section of the Family Welfare Division in Teku, has a 10-month-old daughter. Since she has to spend eight hours at work—from 9am to 5pm—she has not been able to breastfeed her daughter during the day.
“After breastfeeding in the morning before leaving for office, my daughter gets breast milk only after I reach home in the evening,” said Adhikari, 28, who lives in Baneshwor. Evening rush hour traffic means her daughter gets to see her roughly around 6pm.
“We have a breastfeeding corner in our office but we do not have daycare facilities for children like mine,” Adhikari told the Post at a programme organised by the office she works for to mark the breastfeeding week. “This leaves me with no option than to leave my daughter at home after work.”
For many lactating mothers like Adhikari in Kathmandu, breastfeeding their infants is a challenge. And though government agencies have been trying to establish breastfeeding corners for new mothers, a lack of childcare facilities makes it difficult for many to bring their children to their offices.
This has given rise to a more alarming situation: more mothers are feeding newborns formula milk in recent years. A study carried out by Helen Keller International and the Health Ministry shows around 57 percent of new mothers in the Valley start feeding formula milk within three days of childbirth.
According to the World Health Organization, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health.
“Working-class women have two options—either they quit their jobs or compromise on breastfeeding,” Dr Atul Upadhyay, project coordinator at Helen Keller International, told the Post. “Due to such problems, the exclusive breastfeeding rate in Kathmandu Valley is only 43 percent, which is the lowest among other places in the country.”
Nepal has committed to increasing over 90 percent exclusive breastfeeding rate by 2030, but the rate has declined from 70 percent in 2011 to 66 percent in 2016.
According to the National Demographic Health Survey-2016, only 55 percent of women breastfeed within an hour of childbirth. Out of 10 infants, three are fed ghee, honey or sugar before breastfeeding after birth.
Doctors say breastfeeding has multiple benefits to both babies and their mothers, as breast milk protects children from illness including childhood asthma, obesity and heart disease among others and it fulfils all nutrition requirements. Breastfeeding also improves maternal health by improving birth spacing, reducing postpartum haemorrhage and lowers risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
“A lot of people, especially new mothers, are influenced by advertisements of formula milk,” said Upadhyay. “Some women who give birth through surgery have the misconception that they cannot breastfeed their babies. Some women don’t breastfeed their infants because they are overly conscious of their body image, which is wrong.”
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