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19 Apr 2024, Edition - 3202, Friday

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Health & Lifestyle

While breastfeeding is important but putting it in a clause is limiting women’s ownership over their body

Indrani Thakurata


No one, in their sane mind would deny the goodness of breastmilk and the importance of breastfeeding to a new born baby. The WHO recommends that women breastfeed infants till age of two, but national data sources say 44% of babies which is 12 million of 26 million start breastfeeding within an hour of birth and the rest are fed formula milk. It can be a challenge for new mothers to breastfeed right away, as many would agree, that the milk production happens only after a few days of sustained efforts. “There are many factors that contribute to a successful breastfeeding relationship with the child. The posture being a very important one. The more the child sucks, the more your body will generate.  Also; if your child gets habituated with formula milk, then it will be difficult to feed breastmilk, which is tasteless. So, the trick is to keep at it,” says Nilanjana Deb.

National Family Health Survey 4, which was released in 2016 showed significant improvements in breastfeeding practices, among both rural and urban Indian women, but it is still low on a global scale. “ The 2017 report termed breast feeding  as the best investment in global health generating $35 in global return for every dollar invested, the judge was quoted saying. So, you can imagine the situation,” she adds. the judge said.

The Madras High Court’s query while deciding the  petition of a doctor whose admission to a Post-Graduate Diploma in Gynaecology and Obstetrics for the academic year 2017- 18 was cancelled on the ground that she had not completed two years of service as she was on maternity leave for six months  has created a stir amongst people, especially mothers. Recently, the court   has asked the centre ‘why it cannot bring an Act making it obligatory on the part of women to breastfeed as has been done by the UAE government. Justice N Kirubakaran went on to further ask “Why not this Court declare right of newborn to mother’s feeding upto six months exclusively and upto 2 years along with substitutions as fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution…”?

The court is in favour of adequate maternity leave to working women but putting a cap on only two children, which will take are of the population control policy as well. “Why not the Central Government bring an act making it obligatory on the part of women availing maternity benefits to breastfeed the child at least during the maternity leave period?” he asked. In response to his query, Priyanka Mukherjee, a mother of two says, “Just as a appreciate judge’s effort to push breastfeeding, I also critique the linking of maternity benefits with breastfeeding. All mothers need maternity leave. Ofcourse breastfeeding mothers need leave but there is more to baby care than just breastfeeding. Secondly, by putting it in a clause you are limiting women’s ownership over their bodies. Thirdly, what about mother’s who adopt? Lastly, prohibition doesn’t work as a policy.” Continuing the same line of thought, Sandhya Kumar, a mother of a two-year-old says, “A new mother requires time to adjust to a new schedule, new body, so maternal care is more than just breastfeeding. Adding, Meenakshi Kumar, an expectant mother says, “it is unfair to draw linkages between breastfeeding and maternity leave. What happens when a woman is unable to produce milk?”

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