New Delhi, Dec 6 (IANS) Only eight million of the 26 million babies born in India every year are breastfed within an hour of birth, said a World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative report Thursday.
It also ranked India at 31 out of the 51 countries surveyed.
In breastfeeding practices from 2008-2012, the report found only 46 percent of newborns in India were breastfed in the first 24 hours of their birth.
The percentage was found higher in neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka (75.8), Bangladesh (64), Afghanistan (54.3) and Bhutan (58.5).
The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative was launched in 51 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America by International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN).
The report is titled: 'Are Our Babies Falling Through Gaps: The State of Policies and Programme Implementation of the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding in 51 countries'.
Arun Gupta, regional coordinator of IBFAN Asia, said: "India only had guidelines for advocacy of infant and young child feeding, no national-level authority with a separate budget allocation".
He also said the government should come out with a rule extending maternity leave for working women from three months to six months irrespective of whether they are government employees or not.
"Only about six percent of working women are in the government sector, which offers six months maternity leave. This (provision) should be common to all the working women," he said.
The report also said over 12 percent of Indian mothers fed their newborns with bottled milk which affected their bonding with the babies and their health.
To improve the situation, the report recommends formulation of a comprehensive policy on infant and child feeding practices, monitoring it through a committee, effective maternal protection through awareness, maternity entitlement and counselling.