Many women in India who wear the traditional sari breastfeed in public, using the garment as a means of covering themselves. However, this option is not available to women who do not want to wear the sari. The awareness about breast milk and early nutrition is poor among new mothers. We still see patients who don’t give colostrum to the baby. One of the reasons breastfeeding is nearly universal and prolonged, especially in rural areas, is because of the widespread belief that it is effective in postponing the next pregnancy. Contemporary literature shows that ovulation is likely to return sooner in women who partially breastfeed than those who exclusively breastfeed.
Sometime back a so-called model did not splash a photo on the cover of a Malayalam magazine showing her ‘breastfeeding’ a baby and it is another matter that she is married, nor was the child hers. Even in the Western world, women in general modestly cover themselves when nursing their babies. The attempt to give that excellent message in terms of exhibitionism did nothing but raise a storm of controversy. It seems somewhere along the way we have lost a sense of propriety and instead wallow in an aura gained through notoriety. In the end, it became a storm in the teacup. Instead of feeding the child in public with a purpose, the milk had become spoiled one because of the controversy.
Breastfeeding all babies for the first 2 years would save the lives of more than 8,20,000 children under age 5 annually, noted a release issued by the WHO. The guidelines describe how hospitals should have a written breastfeeding policy in place, required staff competencies, and antenatal and post-birth care, including breastfeeding support for mothers. It also recommends limited use of breast milk substitutes, rooming-in, responsive feeding, educating parents on the use of bottles and pacifiers, and support when mothers and babies are discharged from hospital.
The top six breastfeeding challenges faced by Indian mothers were: early day challenges such as sore and cracked nipples, latching problem, and engorged breasts, exhaustion from waking up in the middle of the night, too many feeding sessions and long feeding sessions, baby biting, lactation issues, problems with breastfeeding in public, including lack of facilities, perceived restriction and post-partum depression.
In a survey conducted, which provides a platform for mothers, in collaboration with a supplier of breast pumps and breastfeeding accessories. Over 500 women participated in the survey, which aims to bring the conversation about breastfeeding challenges into mainstream discourse and find solutions.
Breast milk contains antibodies that prevent viral infections in the baby. It has all the nutrients in the right dosage besides being available all the time at the right temperature and right composition. Further, breast milk is dynamic, which means its composition varies, based on the age of the child. The first six months the baby should be exclusively fed of breast milk and after that other foods could be introduced in a phased manner, while continuing breast milk.
Breastfeeding helps women in losing the weight gained during pregnancy and prevents excessive bleeding. It is a much cheaper alternative as formula foods are very expensive. It has been found that breastfed children were more healthy and intelligent in later life. “Breastfeeding can, therefore, produce a whole generation of healthy future citizens
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)