World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated in the first week of August (1 to 7) every year, is marked to encourage breastfeeding, which improves the health of both, the babies and mothers around the world.
It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed in August 1990 by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF, and other organizations to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.
According to Padma Shri Dr Alka Kriplani -- Director & Head, Centre for Minimally Invasive Gynecology, Obstetrics & ART, Paras Hospital Gurugram -- every second of post-birth counts as it provides the best outlet of development for the baby.
Breastfeeding, as per the doctor, is "essential during the golden hour" as it provides a host of benefits that greatly impacts the health of both mother and child.
"It contributes to neonatal immunity, thermoregulation, decreases stress levels, and improved mother-newborn bonding. Babies, who have breastfed, have lower rates of asthma, diabetes, childhood leukemia and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. An adequate amount of breast milk acts as a shield against diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Apart from all this, breastfeeding also helps regulate the baby's body temperature and breathing. Mothers should continue breastfeeding in the times of corona too as it is pivotal for strengthening child's immunity," explained Dr Kriplani.
Shedding light to the current scenario, that is amid the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Akta Bajaj, Sr Consultant, and head- Obstetrics, and Gynecology, Ujala Cygnus Healthcare said: "mothers are more inclined to give formula milk or animal milk as a substitute."
"While this practice makes it convenient to feed the infant, formula impacts their health. Breastfeeding is good for the mother's health and it helps to shed the pregnancy weight. It's the best bonding time between a mother and a child. Normally, the flow of breastmilk in a new mother is less during the initial hours but as the baby keeps suckling, the flow gradually increases," she explained.
Dr Bajaj further noted, "Our lack of knowledge of mechanisms of the human body makes us give up at this juncture thinking that the amount is not enough. The formula is harder to digest for a new baby. It stays in the stomach longer than breast milk, which may cause your baby to feed less often and could cause a decrease in your milk production. Supplementing with formula, especially from a bottle, may change your baby's suck pattern at the breast."
Dr. Amita Shah, Senior Consultant and Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Columbia Asia Hospital stressed on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding up to six months as it allows the infants to access and "easily digestible and suitable form of protein, sugar, and fat for the unique needs of a newborn."
"Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), structurally complicated sugar molecules unique to human breast milk, are the third most abundant solid component in human milk after lactose and fat and act as a prebiotic that promotes the development of the gut microbiota, a key influencer of allergic disease. Breast milk is also full of antibodies that help the newborn fight infections caused by viruses and bacteria," Dr Shah said.
Explaining more, Dr Shah said, "Colostrum, the first milk, is thick, particularly rich in protein that provides high amounts of immunoglobulin A (IgA) as well as several other antibodies. That is why breastfeeding should start within an hour of birth. Babies who are breastfed as infants have lower rates of ear infections, pneumonia, stomach viruses and diarrhea, cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia, bowel diseases such as Crohn's, asthma, allergies, eczema, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)."
Dr Shah noted the many benefits of breastfeeding for the mother, including a reduction in the risk of "breast or ovarian cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis."
It helps in burning calories and quickens uterus return to pre-pregnancy size faster, thereby hastening the postpartum healing rate. Lactating mothers should be careful about their diet as it will have an impact on the breastfed baby.
"They should take high protein foods such as whole grains, dried and fruits, vegetables, cereals, pulses, eggs and chicken and also drink a lot of water, fresh fruit juices, tender coconut, lassi and lime juice to maintain the right level of hydration. However, lactating mothers should avoid alcohol at all costs," suggested Dr Shah. (ANI)