Breastfeeding: Some useful tips and insights

Some women in urban areas, including Bangalore, aren’t just willing to continue with breastfeeding babies for long. Why? Are their fears valid, or solvable? Here’s an insight into the issue.

The world recently observed breastfeeding week, to spread awareness on the importance of breastfeeding babies. In Bangalore too there were several awareness campaigns, seminars, rallies, advertisements and related promotions.

The government has for sometime been campaigning aggressively on malnutrition and importance of breastfeeding through a series of advertisements with film actor Aamir Khan as the ambassador. Experts however are pointing to a declining graph among educated women on the willingness to breastfeed their babies even for first six months.

Why unwillingness to feed the baby?

Breastfeeding a baby brings its own set of ‘problems’ which many new moms find tough to deal with. Not able to dress up as they want to, need to maintain nutritious diet besides the need to shed weight, problem of leaking milk, the stress of work that makes it tough to reach home at a fixed time etc. are some problems that bother new mothers.

However, all these problems can be overcome with some tactical planning and personal care, provided the new mom has the willpower to continue with breastfeeding the baby.

Dr. Asha Benakappa, a paediatrician and lactation consultant, says: “Breastfeeding is a skill. It needs to be learnt quickly by a new mother. A mother needs to be firm on the decision to breastfeed as long as she can. At least for first six months, a baby needs to be fed exclusively by breast milk. Unfortunately very few educated mothers are encouraged or show the willingness to breastfeed their babies.

Mother is the only one who can ensure the well-being of a newborn. File pic.

Not enough milk?

Many of these women want ease and convenience in feeding patterns. Again many are under this myth of ‘I do not have enough milk.’ Dr.Asha says that if a newborn, except for the first three days after birth, urinates at least six times a day, it means the baby is getting sufficient milk.

Says Dr. Anitha K. Mohan, Consultant Obstetrician at Fortis hospital, Bannerghatta road: “Lack of milk supply in the new mother should be judged by the specialist and not by relatives or by the mother herself. Breastfeeding is not only easy but also the best nutrition for a newborn baby. While there are enough advertisements promoting breast feeding, many urban women do not know the technique. This has to be seriously thought about and addressed by experts.”

Dr. Ravneet Joshi, paediatric and lactation consultant at Manipal hospitals says: “Fortunately in my professional life, I have come across educated young women who want to do their best for the child. The concern of not having enough milk in the mother is related to control of demand. So if a mother nurses often, she will have enough milk supply. She can prevent other problems too if the breast milk is getting drained in adequate quantity.”

Encouraging working women to breastfeed, Dr. Ravneet adds, “Working women should start practicing expressing milk and storing it to feed the baby at least 15 days before they begin work. Increase night-time feeds to have good milk production. However as many would be aware, direct breastfeeding is anytime better than expressed milk as it keeps the mother and baby in close contact.”

What increases breast milk supply?

Try these tips!

  1. There are natural vegetables that induce more milk supply. Various melons including Bottle Guard or Lauki, green leaf vegetables like Sabbasige soppu (Dil – Anethum graveolens) help in milk production, without any odour or side-effect.
  2. If you are a working mother and want to breastfeed your child, time your liquid intake in such a way that milk is produced at the time when you are ready to feed. This means lesser liquid intake during day time.
  3. More liquid intake means more milk. Drinking milk enriches breast milk with more nutrients and calcium.
  4. It is natural that one breast produces more milk, while the other has less. Don’t worry about this.
  5. When breasts are hardened, a hot pack (very hot water inside a rubber bag) carefully given by placing cloth on the skin, helps express extra milk and helps you become normal. If you bear the pain and do nothing, it will lead to fever, lumps and serious medical conditions.
  6. There are lanolin-based creams available in medicals, to treat sore nipples

In her book written on the subject, ‘Breastfeeding-the basic instinct,’ Dr. Asha Benakappa says, “Adequate nutrition, frequent suckling and emotional support are the physiological ways to increase milk production.”

Ginger, garlic, mint, jaggery, dates may be a good diet to be incorporated in the mother’s food plan. however, doctors caution on relying only on foods to encourage mothers. Dr. Asha says a mother should never be made to feel that she will not be able to lactate or that her milk will not be good unless she consumes a particular food.

Breast milk flows naturally from a woman’s body soon after childbirth.  Women need to accept the breast milk it as the only diet to feed their babies and avoid formula milk.

You are working. How can you breastfeed baby?

Dr. Anitha advises, “Some foods like garlic, methi (fenugreek) and oats help mothers to produce more milk. Working professionals too must breastfeed their babies. Women must avail of special leave or flexible work hours to facilitate at least 6 months of exclusive breast feeding. Expressed breast milk is the next best option to direct breastfeeding and must be taught to all mothers. Once breast milk is expressed, it can be kept at room temperature for six hours. This can be given to the baby with a spoon, without heating it or adding anything.”

Says Poornima Sharma, a mother to a three-month old infant, “There is a huge lack of awareness on how to help the baby latch on, hardened breasts and other concerns among new mothers. The consulting obstetrician can play a good role in guiding and counselling new mothers. I could not breastfeed my first baby in the beginning, but I was counseled and encouraged by my doctor. Thankfully, now I do not have any problem in breastfeeding my baby.”

On primary concerns among new mothers during the breastfeeding phase, Dr. Anitha says, “Sore nipples happen because of poor “latch-on” technique. If larger part of the areola (dark area around  the nipple) is in the baby’s mouth during breast feeding, baby gets enough milk and sore nipples do not happen. After breastfeeding, the mother can apply a drop of her breast milk on the sore nipples and allow them to air dry.  This helps healing the soreness.”

A few tips for a cherished breastfeeding phase

  • Have an early check-up at your hospital post-delivery to clear doubts with the concerned obstetrician or lactation consultant. It is advisable to solve problems at this stage like sore nipples, engorgement of breasts, inability to feed from the second breast and so on.
  • Make sure to give the baby -colostrum (first milk) produced by the lactating mother. This should be initiated soon after childbirth or if it is a caesarean delivery, as soon as possible.
  • Regular expression of breast milk (every three hours) will prevent leaking and maintain milk production.
  • Mood swings, hormonal changes are natural during post delivery stage– do not give up breastfeeding due to these reasons.
  • Talk to other mothers who have delivered recently and find out how you can cope with the challenges the new phase brings.
  • Once a baby is on bottle feed, it is difficult to get the baby to switch to breast feeding, so be careful before you take the decision.
  • Plan your career to get back to work after a year of baby’s age or try work-from-home option. Discuss your maternity leave well in advance with the employer to have clarity on the issue.
  • Feeding expressed milk can be done with a palada/a cup or through a spoon. Do not feed expressed milk using a bottle as it can cause nipple confusion with babies.
  • When trying to break away from the feeding baby, insert a finger in its mouth and then separate yourself, in order to avoid a sore nipple and cranky baby.
  • Lactating mothers can use breast pads to prevent milk stains from showing. One can use folded handkerchiefs or absorbent materials inside the bra and change them often.
  • Do not hurry on introducing other foods in the baby’s diet. Talk to your paediatrician when to wean the baby.
  • Avoid giving a pacifier if possible to the baby.
  • Prevent engorged breasts with regular nursing and get it treated soon through immediate remedies as advised by your doctor.
  • Doctors worldwide these days are discouraging feeding cow’s milk to babies below one year, as it leads to respiratory problems in the baby and mucus production.

Mother’s milk is the best

Lactation consultant at Cloudnine, Ruth Patterson says: “One doesn’t find a rural mother taking help of an obstetrician or lactation consultant for breast feeding. It is something she has always seen and grown up with. Urban women are educated but they have no time, patience, have huge disposable incomes so they easily give in to bottle feeding. For working women, expressed milk option is the best one to ensure the baby is on a right diet.”

Breastfeeding has a number of advantages for the baby and the mother. Fewer incidences of breast and cervical cancer have been found in women who breastfeed babies until one year or longer. Due to natural method of calories being shed out, new mothers are able to lose weight easily in breastfeeding phase when combined with regular exercise.

Babies who are breastfed are healthier, have lesser digestion problems and better immunity. Experts say women right from early pregnancy should read books on post delivery and have practical idea of taking care of a little one who is going to be completely dependent on the mother. Lactation experts advise mothers to breastfeed 12 to 14 times a day as per demand of the baby. Finally they have a word of advice- Do not fret of losing some sleep for a few months.

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