Motherhood is the best thing that can happen to any woman and breast milk is the best feed for a normal newborn. However there are many misconceptions regarding it which often deprives a newborn from this nutritious feed even in this 21st century. Not only in the lower socioeconomic strata but even in the upper class, babies are put on top feed. Reasons may vary as in lower class, the mother is often malnourished hence she does not develop adequate feed for the child while in the upper class a figure conscious mother may not feed the child. As a result, child suffers. Both these conditions can be tackled if we can overcome the misconceptions and mothers realize their responsibilities towards their motherhood.
Breast milk contains all the nutrients for growth and normal development of a baby from birth to 6 month of age. By ensuring exclusive breast feed for 6 month we can decrease under five mortality by 13%. To ensure maximum benefits the breastfeeding must be exclusive (not even water) for first 6 month except vitamin and iron drops if indicated. It should be started within 30 min of normal delivery and 4 hours after cesarean section, no additional feed as honey, jaggery (prelacteal feed) should be given to the child.
In the national family health survey-3 in India, only 25% infants were given breast milk within 30 min of birth , 28% of total infants are exclusively breast fed till 4-5 month of age and 52% of the infants were given prelacteal feed for first 3 days of life which is a very bad practice as first 3 days of mother's milk called colostrum is highly beneficial for the baby's immunity and brain development.
Benefits of breast milk:
nutritional superiority: it contains all the nutrients in appropriate amount for growth and development and easily digestible form
carbohydrates: lactose is in high concentration (6-7 g/dl) in breast milk. which helps in absorption of calcium and growth of lactobacilli in intestine.
Proteins: content is low(.9-1.1 g/dl) as the baby cannot effectively metabolize high protein load. Breast milk contain taurine and cysteine (not present in cow milk and formula feeds) which helps in brain development.
Fats: rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids(PUFA) necessary for myelination of nervous system.
Vitamin and minerals: sufficient for need of 1st 6 month of age.
Water and electrolytes: breast milk has 88% water, so an exclusive breastfed baby does not require water to quench his thirst and also the sodium content is low so no overload on neonatal kidney which is of concern in cow's milk feed.
immunological superiority: mother's milk contains number of protective factors mainly IgA, macro-phages, lymphocytes, lactoferrin, etc due to which baby becomes less likely to develop infections.
Apart from all the above benefits, child also has a low risk of developing allergic disorders, ear infections and dental problems. They also have a low risk of developing heart disease, cancer, etc in later life. Breastfed baby is around 15 times less likely to die of diarrhoea. It has been observed that babies who were exclusively breastfed were better bonded with their mothers and had a higher IQ levels as compared to those who were given mixed feeding.
Not only babies but mothers also get benefited by this practice. Breastfeeding soon after birth helps in uterine involution. If the mother is exclusively breastfeeding her baby and has not resumed menses, then there is no need for any other contraceptive during initial six months following delivery. It reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Also, it is the most effective way of shedding those extra kilos gained during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding is the most convenient, time saving and effective way of bonding with the new born. Breastfeeding completes the motherhood and during this period the new born and mother requires the support and love of the whole family specially the first time mother who has difficulty in milk letdown which can be delayed up to one day. So the mother should be given the hope that she should not lose confidence in herself and that she can give the best to her baby and should think positively about the baby.
Mother should also keep her baby close to her breast (called as Kangaroo Mother Care) for the maximum time so that bond develops and milk letdown occurs. It promotes increased milk production and breast feeding success. Studies suggest that it reduces stress level in infant and improves cognitive development. It also helps to maintain normal body temperature for the baby.
Feed your baby and establish a bond that will connect your baby with you for the lifetime. Motherhood is the best gift given to a woman by God and breastfeeding is the best gift a mother can give to her baby.