Monday, October 08, 2007

Mother's milk is the first right of the child

It could perhaps be the first right a newborn would acquire as a citizen of India - the right to mother's milk. Only 23 percent of the infants born in India are introduced to breast milk in the first hour of their birth and only 46 per cent in the first six months. But all this could change soon with a move now to bring rights of children below six years of age within legal framework.

The right to mother's milk could be the first right that an infant could acquire. National Commission for Child Rights has started discussing the proposal with the government. "Mother's milk is nutritious and healthy,” says Member, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, Sandhya Bajaj.

The Infant Milk Substitutes Act of 1992 as amended in 2003 bans advertisement of baby feed. The law in a way encourages breast-feeding. But now a need is being felt to move beyond the law. The present act makes it obligatory for any pre and post-natal educational material to list out benefits of breast milk. What is being proposed is that the law be amended again so that some responsibility be fixed on health workers to introduce the child to mothers milk within an hour of the birth. The provision could be incentive rather than punitive.

Similarly a change in the Maternity Benefits Act of 1961 is also being proposed so that maternity leave be extended from three to six months as six months of regular breast feeding is prescribed by most doctors.

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