As per the National Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health and thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond. Infant milk substitute or infant food should only be used, if recommended on health grounds.
The objectives of the National Guidelines on IYCF are to bring about improvement in optimal feeding practices for infants and young children and raise awareness for achieving optimal feeding practices. The following steps have been taken by Government to ensure Infant and Young Child Feeding:
- Infant Milk Substitutes Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1993, as amended 2003, has been enacted in the country to protect, promote and support breastfeeding and ensure proper use of infant foods.
- Under the Anganwadi Services Scheme, counselling is provided to Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers on infant and young child feeding practices.
- The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), which is a centrally sponsored Conditional Maternity Benefit scheme of the Government for pregnant and lactating women, under which cash incentives are provided partly compensating for their wage loss to improve health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women & Lactating Mothers. Recent amendment in Maternity Benefit Act is another important step in strengthening the IYCF practices.
- The POSHAN Abhiyaan focuses on social and behavioural change communication and thus explicitly paving the way for a mass movement to promote a transformative change, to address the malnutrition related challenges and create awareness on holistic nutrition including promotion of optimal infant and young child feeding practices.
- Early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding for first six months and appropriate Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices are promoted under Mothers’ Absolute Affection (MAA) in convergence with Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- Home Based Care for Young Children (HBYC) has been initiated as an extension of Home Based Newborn Care (HBNC) to provide community based care by ASHA workers with focus on improvement in child rearing practices, nutrition counselling and breastfeeding promotion till 15th month of life.
- Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Days (VHSNDs) are observed for provision of maternal and child health services and creating awareness on maternal and child care in convergence with Ministry of Women and Child Development. Health and nutrition education through mass and social media is also promoted to improve healthy practices and to generate demand for service uptake.
- Revised Mother and Child Protection Card is the joint initiative of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the Ministry of Woman and Child Development. It is an effective counselling tool for use of front line workers to address the nutrition concerns and improving IYCF practices in children.
The Minister of State (Health and Family Welfare), Sh Ashwini Kumar Choubey stated this in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha here today.