Breast Milk – The Elixir of Life
“BREAST FEEDING IS A MOTHER’S GIFT TO HERSELF, HER BABY AND THE EARTH”-Pamela K Wiggins
Of every 1000 children born in India, 39 infants do not live to see their first birthday. Almost fifty percent of infant deaths in India are due to respiratory infections and diarrhoea. Breast feeding alone can reduce the infant deaths significantly. Exclusive breast feeding for 6 months protects the infant against pneumonia, diarrhoea, malnutrition, allergies and chronic illnesses. It is also said that breastfed babies score higher in IQ tests. Breast feeding contributes to the health and wellbeing of mothers also. In India only 64.9% infants are exclusively breastfed for first 6 months.
To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, WHO and UNICEF recommend:
- Initiation of breastfeeding within the first 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
The first milk-colostrum is rich in antibodies which helps in building baby’s immune system. Breast milk provides all the nutrients required for first six months. For the first week after birth, it is recommended that mothers breastfeed their newborns 8-12 times in 24hrs.
Breast milk can increase if the mother eats well, drinks well and rests well. The more your baby breastfeeds – the more milk you will produce! All mothers should remember that-‘Caring is more important than worrying’.
Adequacy of breast feeding in this critical period should be monitored. Danger signs like not feeding well, decreased activity, developing fever, less than 4 urinations per day after day 3, continuous cry should be watched for in the first week of life. Excessive weight loss (>10%) and weight faltering requires immediate treatment. A proper positioning and latching will prevent from sore, painful and cracked nipples. Mother should continue breastfeeding even if suffering from minor infections like cold, or fever.
Juggling work and breastfeeding is not easy. Have confidence in yourself. You can do this! Make a commitment before you return to work. Expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to 6hrs, in insulated cooler for one day and in refrigerator for 5-8 days.
Breast feeding should be given exclusively for first six months of age and then till two years along with complementary food.
Mother should communicate, look into the eyes, touch and caress the baby while feeding. Mothers need to practice responsive feeding. Breastfeeding is the best gift a mother can give her baby which lasts a lifetime. Breastfeeding is not a choice it’s a responsibility.
Content Credits: Dr. Priya Shivalli