One of the priceless and most precious gifts a mother can give her baby is her breast milk. Only a mother has the superpower of producing this magic potion.
Clean, readily available, nutritionally superior, easy to digest and assimilate, breast milk has anti-infective and immune-boosting capacity. It reduces the risk of asthma and allergies in the future, increases the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of the baby. Breastfeeding helps strengthen the emotional bond between a mother and her baby. In the mother, it helps control excessive bleeding after delivery, lose the extra weight gained during pregnancy and reduce the risk of ovarian and breast cancer in the future.
The World Health Organization recommends initiation of breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth (4 hours in case of caesarean delivery), exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, to be continued up to 2 years of age along with appropriate complementary feeding beginning at the age of 6 months.
The concept of early initiation of breastfeeding soon after birth is being stressed so much for the sole reason of providing the colostrum (The Liquid Gold) to the baby. It is the first formed milk that is rich in essential nutrients and immune-boosting components compared to mature milk, thus protecting the baby from many infections and diseases. It has a mild laxative effect which helps the baby pass its first stool and thus reduces the severity of jaundice seen in the first few days of life.
Breast Milk provides complete nourishment and hydration required during the first 6 months of life. Hence there is no need to supplement the baby with any other foods during this period. Some people give ‘ghutti’, gripe water, honey, sugar water among others, including early weaning with baby foods prior to completion of 6 months. Such practices are completely unscientific and unacceptable.
The divine deed of breastfeeding should be continued up to 2 years of age along with appropriate complementary feeding (with homemade traditional weaning foods only), starting from the age of 6 months.
All said and done, breastfeeding is not a responsibility of the mother alone. Due to short-term stresses, societal manipulation, decreased motivation, mothers find it difficult to follow the right breastfeeding practices. Involvement of the father and other family members, their encouragement and support to the mother, helps in early initiation and continuation of successful breastfeeding practice for a longer duration. Many kinds of research have proved beyond doubt that a father’s presence and support are unparalleled for a feeding mother.
Mothers face many problems during feeding including low milk supply, sore or cracked nipples, psychological stress, difficulty in latching the baby to the breast, among others. During such situations, one should take help, consult their lactation consultants promptly without delay rather than taking a self-decision to shift over to infant milk substitutes and usage of feeding bottles.
Infant milk formulas do not provide all the essential bioactive factors and immune boosters that a mother’s milk can, in addition to increasing the risk of diarrhea and electrolyte imbalance if it is not prepared with utmost precautions. And the use of feeding bottles is a very dangerous thing to do. Increased risk of respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, iron deficiency anemia, malocclusion of teeth, nipple confusion are among the larger list of side effects of bottle feeding.
Strict implementation of Infant Milk Substitutes, feeding bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply, and Distribution) Amendment Act, 2003, would help solve the issue of over-the-counter availability of formulas and feeding bottles to a significant extent.
Breastfeeding and COVID:
Almost all COVID-19 positive mothers should be encouraged to directly breastfeed their babies, provided they wear masks, wash and sanitize their hands, and all the feeding area. In case, a mother is too sick to directly feed her baby, one can feed the baby with hand expressed breastmilk. Breastmilk will in fact be transferring the required immunity to the baby.
A feeding mother can confidently take the COVID Vaccine and also feed her baby soon after vaccination without hesitation or fear.
Breast Milk Is Warmth, Nutrition, Immunity, Safety, And Love, All Rolled Into One Package. Breastfeeding Is A Mother’s Gift To Herself, Her Baby, And The Society.
Dr Vindhya Holeyannavar
Consultant Paediatrician, Nutritionist, and Lactation Consultant
Sparsham Child Care Hospital, Hubli.
In association with Rotary Club of Hubli MidTown