Start breastfeeding as soon as the baby is born

Feeding the baby right after birth has immense health benefits. It also helps the infant imbibe the habit early on and accelerates the supply of milk.

By Dr Kakoli Acharyya

Breastfeeding is the most preferred form of feeding for newborn babies. There are various factors to modern day breastfeeding which especially involve particularly young working mothers who depend largely on formula feeding. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months should start immediately after the birth.

However, just after delivery, mother and child are kept in different beds, most mothers are not too keen to feed them. The initial period is essential for feeding as the amount of milk production increases with suckling of babies along with secretion of colostrums, which is a rich source of nutrients and antibodies.

Mothers often worry that there isn’t adequate milk production for the baby and choose to go with supplement feeds instead. However, this is a wrong practice and babies should be immediately handed over to their mother post-birth under proper physician’s guidance, so that breastfeeding can start off immediately.

It’s important to make mothers aware and motivated about breastfeeding as breastfed babies receive a wealth of medical benefits and have more chances of survival as they develop immunity to several diseases early on. Additionally, breastfeeding promotes mother-child bonding increasingly along with prevention from infections and allergies in children. It’s recommended by expert medical practitioners across the world that every baby must be exclusively breastfed for their first six months, at least for bettering the chance of living a healthy life, immune to various illnesses and overall development.

Health benefits for breastfed children

Lower risk of contracting allergies, obesity and Types 1 and 2 diabetes, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), ear infections (otitis media) and gastroenteritis.

Boost overall cognitive development. Less incidence of behaviour problems. The IQ level of breastfed children is reported to be higher than those who were put on formula feed.

Reduction in risk of childhood leukemia, lymphoma and cardiovascular diseases during adulthood.

Help in building up child’s digestive system. Improves jaw movement, facial muscles’ strength and less chance of tooth decay.

Decreased risk of asthma, respiratory tract infection, cold and flu, bronchitis and celiac disease.

Mothers gain from the goodness of breastfeeding

Reduced chances of breast cancer which comes in proportion to the cumulative lifetime duration of lactation.

Develop bone health as breastfeeding protects against osteoporosis in the long run.

Regular breastfeeding releases oxytocin and cholecystokinin in mothers, which relieve them of tension, lessens risk of developing postpartum depression and fosters a stronger bond between mother and child.

Protect mothers from developing Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Lesser risk of cardiovascular diseases, uterine and ovarian cancer and additionally, helps in maintaining a proper sleeping pattern.

Techniques of proper breastfeeding

To get more comfortable with breast-feeding, expecting mothers can attend prenatal breastfeeding classes, where pictorial representation along with videos and live demonstration with dolls, aid mothers to get comfortable with the whole process.

Choose a relaxed and reclined position on the bed or a supportive chair while feeding the baby. Cradle the baby properly so that he/she can latch on easily. Allow a trained nurse to guide you during the preliminary period so that the mother can get used to it.

Start breastfeeding as soon as the baby is born so that the infant can also imbibe the habit early on. It also accelerates the supply of milk and helps to keep the flow constant. Skin-to-skin contact, touch and smell of mother builds up mother-child bond progressively.

It advisable to use both breasts while feeding. Keep checking if the baby has latched well. Be watchful of how he/she is swallowing the milk and moving the jaw. Keep your baby’s head slightly titled towards the back; the infant’s chin should be placed at the lower dent of the breast, while you aim your nipple towards the baby’s upper lip.

Mothers should drink plenty of fluids, include proteins, whole grains and vegetables in their diet to keep up the milk supply. Take care of nipples if they feel sore or the skin feels chapped. Post-nursing, gently wipe the nipples, use doctor prescribed lanolin creams to treat dryness. Use cold compress to reduce soreness.

(The writer is a pediatrician at CK Birla Hospitals–CMRI, Kolkata.)

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