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Manushi. 1997 Jul-Aug;(101):43-4.

False assumptions.



Indian women do not have to be told the benefits of breast feeding or "rescued from the clutches of wicked multinational companies" by international agencies. There is no proof that breast feeding has declined in India; in fact, a 1987 survey revealed that 98% of Indian women breast feed. Efforts to promote breast feeding among the middle classes rely on such initiatives as the "baby friendly" hospital where breast feeding is promoted immediately after birth. This ignores the 76% of Indian women who give birth at home. Blaming this unproved decline in breast feeding on multinational companies distracts attention from more far-reaching and intractable effects of social change. While the Infant Milk Substitutes Act is helpful, it also deflects attention from more pressing issues. Another false assumption is that Indian women are abandoning breast feeding to comply with the demands of employment, but research indicates that most women give up employment for breast feeding, despite the economic cost to their families. Women also seek work in the informal sector to secure the flexibility to meet their child care responsibilities. Instead of being concerned about "teaching" women what they already know about the benefits of breast feeding, efforts should be made to remove the constraints women face as a result of their multiple roles and to empower them with the support of families, governmental policies and legislation, employers, health professionals, and the media.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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