A new breastfeeding policy has come into effect in Rajasthan for encouraging the rural communities to promote exclusive breastfeeding along with its early initiation. The initiative has been taken as part of the National Nutrition Mission-2022 on conclusion of the World Breastfeeding Week observed between August 1 and 7.Releasing the policy at Swasthya Bhavan here on Wednesday, Medical and Health Minister Kali Charan Saraf cited the figures of the National Family Health Survey-4, stating that the early initiation of breastfeeding in the State was only at 28.4%, while only 58% infants were able to exclusively breastfeed during the first six months of their lives.Mr. Saraf called upon the mothers, family members, medicos and paramedical staff to contribute for promotion of breastfeeding by adopting the methods laid down in the policy.The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which has been working with the State government on the fronts of maternal and child health care, said the initiative should be utilised for reducing infant and neonatal mortality and improving children’s immunity towards infections. The policy is also expected to meet the nutritional needs of young children.UNICEF nutrition specialist Minakshi Singh expressed the hope that the policy, jointly developed by the Department of Women and Child Development and National Health Mission, would ensure “more intensive work” towards improving the current breastfeeding rates.Low percentageMs. Singh said while the State had made an impressive progress in institutional deliveries, which were currently at 86.6%, the early initiation of breastfeeding was low despite having doubled over the last 10 years. Exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months has also doubled during the last decade, as it was only 33.2% in NFHS-3.The new policy stipulates initiation of breastfeeding within an hour inside the labour room, supporting mothers to ensure the continued exclusive breastfeeding and counselling till two years of the child’s age.