Bollywood star Aamir Khan and UNICEF goodwill ambassador emphasised the importance of first hour breastfeeding, the first milk, colostrum that is rich in antibodies and contains a larger percentage of protein, minerals and fat soluble vitamins than mature milk.
Aamir Khan also stressed that six months has to be a bare minimum period for breast-feeding. “Breast feeding is not a one-woman job, it’s a collective responsibility from the families, communities, workplace and health system to support and make it work,” he said. “It helps the babies to immunize from lot of diseases. The Bollywood star was speaking at hotel Tashi-Taj In Thimphu.
Aamir Khan also highlighted the importance of the first 1000 days. If a baby is not taken care in the first two years, the amount of damage done would be very difficult to rectify and therefore the first two years of life are critical to enhance a child’s future. “It begins from the moment the child is conceived,” he said.
The Bollywood star also praised Bhutan’s progress in the field of childcare and development saying dramatic progress had been achieved.
The health minister, Tandin Wangchuk, said great progress had been made in health sector with the increase in maternity leave from three months to six months where the six months is exclusively for breast feeding.
He also pointed out that the most important thing for the health of the mother and child is the mother’s nutrition, young child feeding practice and sanitation and hygiene.
As per the 2015 national nutrition survey, early breast feeding within the first hour after delivery is globally associated with the prevention of about 22% of neonatal deaths while the initiation within the first day can prevent about 16% of neonatal deaths.
It was found out that in Bhutan over three-fourths of children were breastfed within the first hour of life while a higher percentage of women in urban areas reported early initiation of breast feeding.
Around half the women population (51%) were exclusively breastfeeding their children in Bhutan as per the 2015 health survey while the major challenges was the low dietary diversity for children from 6-23 months based on number of food groups given, including the low percentage being given iron rich foods as part of the complementary feeding.
Although stunting in children under five has reduced to 21.2 percent from 33.5 percent in 2010 and anemia prevalence significantly reduced in the last 12 years the issue of child growth, diet, food security and care during pregnancy were still challenges in Bhutan.