Setting a global precedent, the Eighth Asian Congress of Paediatrics in the Capital refused to accept financial support from infant formula food companies. The congress president, R D Potdar, claimed this was a principled stand taken by the paediatric community to promote breast-feeding. Paediatric conferences all over the world are supported by baby food manufacturers. However, the Indian Academy of Paediatricians, which hosted the congress in February, decided to effectively demonstrate its rejection of infant food formulas, pointing out that only breast feeding ensures healthy child growth and is a natural family planning method because nursing mothers cannot conceive.
The congress, attended by delegates from 38 countries, also demanded a six-month "suckling leave" for nursing mothers. In India, Punjab and Haryana have introduced a three-month leave scheme for the purpose. The mother must be recognised as the best primary health worker, with maternal and child health linked together, recommends Meherban Singh, heading of the department of paediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Points out Bombay-based paediatrician P M Udani, "In former socialist countries, working mothers were entitled to one year's fully paid leave and another year of semi-paid leave to promote breast-feeding."
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