"In India, between 2006 and 2013, there has been an improvement in the breastfeeding rates. The latest data show that 44.6 per cent children are put to breastfeeding within one hour of birth and 64.9 per cent children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed," UNICEF Nutrition Specialist Gayatri Singh said.

She cited the provisional figures of the Rapid Survey on Children 2013-14 conducted by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development. "While there is progress, efforts are required to sustain and strengthen the breastfeeding practices," she stressed.

The first week of August (1-7) is globally celebrated as the World Breastfeeding Week highlighting the critical importances of breastfeeding for children. "Breastfeeding and work - Let's make it work' has been the theme for this year's World Breastfeeding Week.

"This year's theme emphasises the need for better support systems and policies to enable working mothers to breastfeed," Singh said.

Talking about the problems related to breastfeeding faced by working women, she referred to the "absence of paid maternity leave or other maternity benefits" as a major one.

"In India, working mothers always face the pressure to return to work in the absence of paid maternity leave or other maternity benefits. Besides, lack of mother-friendly workplace, poor access to infant and child care facility close to the workplace and poor access to information on the maternity entitlements are adding to the woes of the working-mothers in the country," she said.

Women who have adequate maternity benefits value their employers, leading to increased productivity, job satisfaction and loyalty, Singh said.

The supportive national polices and legislation - such as paid maternity leave and breastfeeding breaks - to enable working mothers to continue breastfeeding should be expanded to cover women working in the unorganised face even greater barriers to breastfeeding, she argued.

Incidentally, India's maternity protection status in the last seven years has come down to 3.5 from 5 on a scale of 10.

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