by Marshaneil Soumi D’ Rozario | 06th August, 2019
The World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1st to 7th August to stimulate the development of breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. Breastfeeding is an integral part of human reproduction which has unequaled benefits to the infants as well as mothers. The ideal recommendation is to exclusively breastfeed an infant for 6 months (only milk, not even water). Moreover, weaning should be started at 6 months and breastfeeding should be continued till a minimum of 2 years. Multiple studies have been conducted on animal breastfeeding patterns and the results have suggested humans may continue to breastfeed for up to 5-6 years. Dr. Anagha Chhatrapati, Consultant Gynaecologist, and Obstetrician, Global Hospital,talks about the benefits of breastfeeding and its importance in the life of a mother and child.
Benefits of breastfeeding
Breast milk has enormous health benefits to newborns. The initial part of milk called foremilk quenches the thirst, and the hindmilk fulfills the hunger. It is hygienic, readily available, has the correct temperature, and is free. The other benefits to the baby are, it passes on immunoglobulins, making the baby immune to multiple diseases including tetanus, cholera and many other infections. Statistically, the breast-fed infants have lesser morbidity and mortality from childhood ailments like allergy, bronchial asthma, diarrhoea, childhood cancers, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome. It helps in cognitive and sensory development. Finally, breast milk contains hormones, neuropeptides, and growth factors that may affect growth, development, and self-regulation of food intake, contributing to the differences observed between breastfed and formula-fed infants. So, the breast-fed infants know when to stop when they are full.
Furthermore, it has immense benefits to mothers also. It protects from future risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The lactational amenorrhoea (period free of menstrual cycles during lactation and breastfeeding) has contraceptive benefit; it shrinks the uterus and prevents post-delivery bleeding. It also helps mothers to get back to the normal pre-pregnancy state and lose weight. In the long run, breastfeeding protects mothers from lifestyle diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Diseases.
It is the obstetrician’s duty to impart this knowledge to their pregnant clients, as this is the most receptive period of counseling. Also, the hospital should be baby-friendly. The staff should be supportive, and there should be a LactationConsultant available, should the need arise.
To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, WHO and UNICEF recommend baby-friendly hospital initiative:
• Initiation of breastfeeding within the first half-hour of life
• Exclusive breastfeeding – that is the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water
• Breastfeeding on demand – that is as often as the child wants, day and night
• No use of bottles, teats or pacifiers
Mothers should include certain natural galactagogues like fenugreek (methi), Shatavari, garlic, chickpeas etc, in their diet. They should be encouraged to take adequate dietary supplementation including additional 600Kcals per day. Hydration and rest are of utmost importance. Also, the attitude of the family including the father, and the support system, has a major role in successful breastfeeding practice at home. Cow’s milk is ideal for the calf; mother’s milk is for baby. Bottles fill a child’s stomach, but breast feeding fills a child’s soul!
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