No other food is as complete, as pure and as natural as mother’s milk for her new born. But unfortunately in our country, over the years, we can see this spontaneous practice is gradually being eroded, resulting in problems for both mother and the infant. After all why are these problems being encountered more and more in the urban and now many semi urban and even rural populations? The answer is simple. The impact of industrialization, competition, pressure at home or work place, the breaking of the joint family system and the onslaught of a barrage of commercial products accessible easily cross the nation are all in a way responsible for this changing trend.
The importance of exclusive breast feeding for the first 6 months has been amply stressed upon by all medical experts and is talked about in forum after forum. But still the problem exists. Some of the common problems and complaints from mothers who are unable to lactate successfully for the first 6 months are: ‘not adequate milk secreted’, ‘baby not accepting feeds’, ‘my milk not suitable or not enough for the baby’, ‘lack of time to feed the baby’ or’ mother is on some medical treatment taking medicines’. Genuine as these may seem to the mother, there is a need to focus on the related issues and address them as follows:
- Initiation of breast feeding: Most often breast feeding is not initiated within 1-2 weeks of delivery, as it should be thereby denying the first contact of the baby with the mother. It should be appreciated that only when the baby is put to the breast soon after birth, and the suckling process is initiated, will the mother’s brain receive the signal to produce milk, thereby inducing the milk secretion. The more this time lapses, greater is the effort required by the mother to coax the baby to accept feeds.
- Family support: The role of the elderly females in the house is very crucial to reassure the mother in her ability to feed and encourage her to nurse the baby as early s possible after delivery. Adverse or negative remarks can result in the mother’s losing the confidence to feed, thereby leading the mother to resort to formula feeding. The more she relies on formula feed or the feeding bottle, the lesser will her milk production become.
- Lack of Privacy: Too many distractions by constant visitors or family members surrounding the mother also can result in the mother’s attention being distracted from feeding the baby adequately. Privacy and space with the baby, called ‘rooming in’ is very important for the mother to nurse successfully.
- Mother’s employment: Lack of time due to the mother’s employment and not getting the required maternity leave for 6 months usually forces the mother to acclimatize the baby with the formula or dairy milk using the bottle. This will gradually lead to complete premature lactation failure.
- Problems of the breast: Problems like mastitis or engorgement of the breast usually occur due to incorrect positioning of the baby to the breast or incorrect ‘latching on’ by the baby. These problems can be avoided by proper advice by health care workers or any experienced female member in the family.
The baby if not fed exclusively for the first 6 months are more prone to face health problems in the growing years, like allergies, especially asthma, Type 1 diabetes, obesity and decreased immune response leading to frequent infections. Therefore it is very important that the above mentioned factors be considered so that the mother is able to offer the full benefits of breast milk to her baby not only for the first 6 months but also continue for up to 2 years along with other complementaAAry foods.