Water or water-based drinks before six months can be life threatening to the baby, said Dr Tabish Hazir of the South Asia Infant Feeding Research Network (SAIRFN) at a report launch on Saturday.
What’s troubling is that the prevalence of bottle feeding is common in women who work, are educated, or are from rich families.
Moreover, the rural populations of Sindh and Balochistan have higher rates of women who do not begin timely complementary feeding, which puts infants in these areas at a higher risk than the rest of the country.
These conclusions were drawn from data collected during the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2006-07, released by the National Institute of Population Studies in June 2008. The data was compiled into a report launched by the SAIRFN on the infant feeding practices at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences on Saturday.
The report focuses on the determinants of inappropriate timing of introducing solid, semisolid or soft foods to infants in the DHS.
It suggested that exclusive breastfeeding strategies should be targeted at specific groups, including working and urban women, health facilities offering caesareans (C-section), and the higher socio-economic strata.
Dr Hazir blamed the health system where healthcare providers do not counsel pregnant women concerning the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.
SAIFRN Research Cell Research Administrator Dr Narjis Kazmi said that appropriate feeding between the ages of six months and 23 months reduces malnutrition and illnesses in infants.
She pointed out that DHS 2006-07 was the most recent source of information on infant and young child feeding practices from a nationally representative sample of 10,023 married women.
However, Dr Kazmi was quick to add that there isn’t sufficient data to prepare a formulated, integrated approach to handle the situation.
“A uniform approach is needed to collect data on complementary feeding to include all complementary feeding indicators recommended by the World Health Organisation,” she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2012.