Five years ago, Hina Shaikh experienced a moment of distress that haunted her as a mother. Her newborn son, Moin, despite being a healthy 3.5 kg at birth, began losing weight within a week, refusing breastmilk. It was a critical juncture that could have led to health complications and risked malnutrition.
Living in Shrirampur, an industrial town in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district, Hina found her saving grace in a mother and child clinic operated by the Shrimati Malati Dahanukar Trust (SMDT). Here, she discovered a simple yet effective breastfeeding technique—the cross-cradle hold—that turned the tide for Moin's health. With guidance on breastfeeding frequency and nutrition, Moin thrived solely on breastmilk for six months, growing into an active, robust five-year-old.
This success story isn't just about Moin. It reflects a larger triumph against childhood malnutrition prevalent in India, where nearly 40% of under-five children suffer from stunting. Unfortunately, less than half receive exclusive breastfeeding for the recommended six months, as per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4).
The SMDT clinic, nestled in Shrirampur, holds a beacon of hope for mothers like Hina. With a focus on educating mothers and improving infant nutrition, the clinic's impact resonates across the community. They've counseled over 500 women, contributing to 49% of babies achieving a healthy birth weight.
Initiated as a corporate social responsibility effort by Tilaknagar Industries, the clinic's journey began under the guidance of pediatrician Rupal Dalal. Their approach underwent a transformation, shifting focus from merely treating malnourished children to empowering mothers with essential nutritional knowledge.
Their strategy isn't complex—it emphasizes the importance of breastfeeding techniques and maternal nutrition during the critical first 1,000 days of a child's life. By educating mothers on optimal breastfeeding postures like the cross-cradle hold, the clinic significantly boosted infants' health outcomes.
However, their endeavors transcend breastfeeding techniques. They meticulously guide mothers on balanced diets, incorporating locally available nutrient-rich foods. The clinic's recipe for success includes homemade micronutrient powders, cooking demonstrations, and emphasizing the significance of Type 2 micronutrients.
Their proactive approach extended to engaging with mothers during pregnancy, establishing clubs in anganwadi centers, where expectant mothers gather for sessions on diverse topics—nutrition, fetal development, and childbirth.
The clinic's efforts aren't confined within its walls. They've expanded their reach by venturing into village communities, offering personalized guidance to mothers, even beyond the clinic's premises. A dedicated team of healthcare professionals regularly visits anganwadi centers, conducting evaluations and tracking infant growth.
Their methodology doesn't hinge on dependence but empowerment. They equip local health workers and activists with knowledge, ensuring sustainability beyond their direct involvement.
Moreover, their innovative use of technology amplifies their impact. Collaborating with IIT-Bombay's Spoken-Tutorial initiative, they developed multilingual health and nutrition videos, facilitating widespread dissemination of crucial information. Additionally, IIT students are leveraging monitoring data to gauge the intervention's efficacy on over 15,000 children.
The clinic's success stories speak volumes—mothers like Mumtaz Shaikh, whose adherence to improved diets during pregnancy brought forth healthy infants contrasting with their elder siblings who missed out on these benefits.
The SMDT clinic isn't just addressing malnutrition; it's reshaping mindsets, debunking myths, and empowering mothers with essential knowledge.
In essence, their journey signifies a beacon of hope amidst the rampant malnutrition crisis in India. Their emphasis on education, community engagement, and sustainable intervention strategies has unlocked the door to healthier beginnings for countless children in Shrirampur.
This clinic isn't merely a healthcare center; it's a catalyst for transformation, nurturing a generation equipped with better health outcomes, ensuring a brighter future for India's children.