Breastfeeding is the way of
providing ideal food for healthy growth and development of infants and its
advantages range from physiological to psychological for both mothers and
infants. It is well known that breastfeeding influences a child’s health
positively and improves nutritional status.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recognizes
breastfeeding and human milk as the “normative standards for infant feeding.
The WHO recommends that for the first six months of life, infants should be
exclusively breastfed to achieve optimal growth, development, and health.
Thereafter, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe
complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or
more. Exclusive Breast Feeding (EBF) is defined as infant feeding with human
milk without the addition of any other liquids or solids. Weaning is the term
usually used to describe the process of cessation of breastfeeding after a
period of successful breastfeeding. This usually involves addition of food to
infant’s diet and/or replacement of breast milk in infant’s diet with another
type of milk (formula or whole milk). Maternal physiology, infant nutritional
needs, infant development, especially the development of biting and chewing,
and cultural issues all play a role in the timing of weaning.
The prevalence of breastfeeding differs from one
country to another and from one society to another, this of course is due to
cultural and religious believes. Despite strong evidences in support of
EBF for the first six months of life, its prevalence has remained low
worldwide and it is estimated that only about one-third of infants were
exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
In India, breastfeeding appears to be influenced
by social, cultural, and economic factors. In 1991, Breastfeeding Promotion Network
of India (BPNI) was born to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. (8) Further, the Government of India has undertaken
National Rural Health Mission, which intends to implement Integrated Management
of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses (IMNCI) through the existing healthcare
delivery system. The promotion and acceptance of practices, such as
exclusive breastfeeding, are especially important in developing countries with
high levels of poverty, and that are characterized by a high burden of disease
and low access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
While, a number of studies have assessed
knowledge, attitude and practice of breastfeeding in different parts of the
world; such studies are limited among Indian mothers. However, there were
no reported studies of breastfeeding knowledge and attitudes of mothers using
the IIFAS (Iowa Infant Feeding Attitudes Scale) from India, which may be
different from other cultures. Further, maternal attitude is also a concept of
interest to health professionals who support breastfeeding.
In this regard, we are proposing a study to
examine the infant feeding practices, knowledge and attitude towards
breast feeding among Indian postnatal mothers’ using the IIFAS.