Promoting and supporting breastfeeding is an important public health intervention, with multiple health benefits for infants and mothers. Breastfeeding also has the potential for considerably reduced healthcare costs from even modest increases in prevalence and duration. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that mothers should exclusively breastfeed their infant for the first six months, followed by continued breastfeeding alongside complementary feeding for a minimum of two years. However, despite numerous initiatives to improve breastfeeding initiation and duration over many years, compliance with recommendations is poor in most settings.
Why Breastfeeding Is Important?
Breastfeeding Protect Babies
The initial milk, colostrum, liquid gold is rich in nutrients and antibodies to protect the baby from infections. Therefore, giving colostrum in initial days is important. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of diarrhoea, Pneumonia, ear infections, asthma, eczema, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart diseases and others. Babies fed on mother’s milk have better brain development and have higher I.Q. Breastfed children have shown increased cognitive ability and greater self-confidence.
Breastfeeding Benefits Mothers
Breastfeeding is good for the mother’s health too. It helps mom to lose weight and reduces her risk of cancer of the breast and ovaries, diabetes, heart diseases and osteoporosis. It aids the bonding between the mother and the baby. Life is much easier with breastfeeding; for example, no bottles which mean no nipples to sterilise; no need to buy, measure or mix formula; mothers do not need to warm bottles in the middle of the night. The breastmilk is always ready and at the right temperature.
Breastfeeding Saves Money And Environment
Breastmilk is free and breastfed babies may not fall sick often which means fewer visits to doctors and in turn, low health expenditure. Formula cans, bottles, and nipples create more trash and plastic waste. Switching to breastfeeding means not adding to the waste.
Promoting And Supporting Breastfeeding
Although breastfeeding is natural, many mothers need help. Mothers can not do it alone and need support from hospitals, health professionals, community, at working and public places and members of their own families. Friends who have successfully breastfed are great sources of information and encouragement.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are certified breastfeeding professionals with the highest level of knowledge and skills in breastfeeding support. Other health professionals like pediatricians, gynecologists or general practitioners are also key sources of information. Unfortunately, they receive less training about breastfeeding, so in return, the mother does not receive the proper information and technical help. Formula companies some times incentivise health professionals as a result mother uses formula instead of breastmilk.
Other breastfeeding moms can be a great source of support. In ‘mother-to-mother-support-group’ mothers meet frequently together, they learn from each other, they share tips and offer encouragement. In Pune, at Hirkani Clinic, moms meet regularly. We offer discussions on various breastfeeding issues. Mother can get online information too but, it could be confusing and some technical assistance with face-to-face meetings is more effective.
Having a new baby and learning to breastfeed can be stressful. So, relax in a comfortable, quiet place, take deep breaths, listen to music, meditate, and enjoy time with your baby. Sleep whenever the baby sleeps. With enough sleep, it is easier to cope up with the challenges and stay healthy. The family should look after the baby for a few hours while the mother is resting. They can also help you with household chores and keeping positivity about breastfeeding. Always get help from professionals on time which will help in the continuation of breastfeeding.
(Dr. Mangala Wani is the President of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI), Maharashtra. She is also the Director of Hirkani Gynaecology & Breastfeeding Medicine Clinic in Pune.)
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.[corona_data_new]