World Immunisation Week : First source of immunisation

World Immunisation Week : First source of immunisation

World Immunisation Week is celebrated every year in the month of April and the theme this year is 'Protected Together: Vaccines Work!'

World Immunisation Week is celebrated every year in the month of April with an aim to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all age groups against disease.

It has been recognised as the best cost-effective health intervention. In 2017, the number of children immunised – 116.2 million – was the highest ever reported.

The theme this year is 'Protected Together: Vaccines Work!' Which targets to demonstrate the value of vaccines for the health of children, communities and the world.

Thus, it becomes necessary to vaccinate each child to prevent deaths from vaccine preventable diseases.

Immunisation becomes the fundamental strategy in providing a platform for improving antenatal and newborn care. The very first vaccine that a newborn receives is his mother's milk.

It is an unparalleled way of providing ideal nutrition for the baby's development and is the source of food that they receive within the first hour of life.

The benefits that the components of the milk hold, begin from the first moments of childbirth and continue for many years after breastfeeding ends. According to WHO, exclusive breastfeeding for six months is the optimal way of feeding infants.

Breast milk contains vital vitamins, minerals, antibodies, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, hormones, probiotics, prebiotics and stem cells; it has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal properties and the ability to fight cancer cells. It promotes sensory and cognitive development.

It protects the baby against infectious and chronic diseases. It reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhea.

It ensures a lower risk of gastrointestinal infections for the baby. Adolescents who were exclusively breastfed are less likely to be obese and have type 2 diabetes.

Breastfeeding aids in losing pregnancy weight faster and lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and postpartum depression in mothers.

Colostrum which is the first form of milk produced by the mother is a transparent-yellowish colour liquid, that needs to be the first feed.

It establishes the gut microbiota. Referred to as liquid gold, it is full of protein, low in fat, easy to digest, and plays a crucial role in building the baby's immune system.

It is richer than mature milk. It acts like a laxative that makes the baby flush out toxins frequently, thereby eliminating risk of jaundice.

Breastmilk is so much more than nutrition for the baby.

Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of childhood leukemia which is the most common type of childhood cancer. A child who is breastfed for six months or more has an 11 per cent lower risk for childhood leukemia.

According to NFHS-4 report of 2015-16, only 40 per cent of the children under the age of three years were breastfed within the first hour and only 54 per cent of children under age six months were exclusively breastfed.

Passing judgement and looking down upon breastfeeding women could cause women to cease their breastfeeding journey sooner than they'd prefer. This can lead in adverse health outcomes for the mother, the baby and the country.

With the health advantages that breast milk entails, the creation of feeding rooms at public areas will allow for more mothers to breastfeed.

This in turn will lead to reduction in infant mortality, thereby reduction in the government's overall cost of healthcare provision to citizens.

Suhani Kamra, IBCLC, Lactation consultant n child health educator, Child Health Educator n Lactation Consultant at Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research.

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