Every newborn baby has to be exclusively breastfed till the age of six months – this decreases the risk of infections, malnourishment, allergies and other complications. However, one of the primary challenges in this regard is that the lactating mothers often do not get enough maternity leave. Storing breast milk and feeding it to the child later could be one of the alternatives, believe doctors.
Breast pumps are fast gaining popularity in this regard. In fact, Unicef even has a checklist for the same.
Unicef recommends that a formal review is carried out at least once within the first 12 hours following delivery to support early expressing and at least four times within the first two weeks. This will ensure that mothers express effectively.
It is not only the child, but the mother must be healthy too to express effectively.
Given that the environment is conducive and that they are healthy, most women can express between 700 and 900 mls per day.
Hand expressing, professionals say, is a good technique to obtain small volumes of colostrum. Besides this, breast massage and relaxation techniques could support a mother’s milk flow by increasing oxytocin.
A good connect between the mother and child can also help the mother express milk better. Unicef believes that expressing close to the baby or having a photo or piece of the baby’s clothing nearby can also help.
Also, a mother can choose to express for as long as she wishes, preferably in a four-hourly period.
How to store the milk?
Most breast milk pumps come with containers. The milk in this can be stored up to 8 hours in room temperature and can be used to feed the baby externally. The milk can also be stored in a refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
The Breastfeeding Network of India, however, says that caregivers feed the child with a cup and spoon so as to avoid nipple confusion. In most cases, doctors fear that if one were to feed the child expressed milk through feeding bottles could lead to confusion, and the child may forget to suck on the nipple or may make no effort at all.
When to start breastfeeding?
International guidelines mandate that the child be put to breast within the first one hour of birth. With this, the child is fed colostrum, a fat rich milk, which is essential for its development. The colostrum contains antibodies that the mother’s body has secreted and lines the child’s gastrointestinal tract for protection against infections. The quantity of the colostrum doesn’t matter, there is sufficient nutrition to sustain the child for a few hours till the mother regains the strength to start feeding the child breastmilk, according to Dr Supraja Chandrasekar, paediatrician, People Tree Hospitals.
The Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India guidelines mandate that the child be fed even before being given a bath post-birth as it would bring about variations in the child’s body temperatures. The BPNI guidelines explain that this is because the baby is very active for the first 30-60 minutes post birth and the sucking reflexes are active.
Government of India guidelines seek that newborns be put on exclusive breastfeeding. This not only helps improve the child’s brain development, but also provides several health advantages. There are reduced chances of asthma, infection, allergies and eczema in children, and also a reduced chance of breast and ovarian cancer among lactating mothers.
There is no fixed number of times a mother must breastfeed the child in 24 hours. Each child behaves differently and requires a different number of feedings. Largely, children require 8-10 feeds a day.
“However, the best advice here is to allow the baby to choose on their own, based on their needs. It’s called on-demand feeding. Babies take 15 to 25 minutes to finish a feed,” says Dr Arun of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India.
National Health Mission guidelines
The guidelines state:
- Till six months do not give anything to your baby except your milk because it has all the nutrients a child requires, including water.
-Even in summer, do not give water to the baby.
-Do not give any ghutti, cow or buffalo milk, sugar or honey after birth.
-While feeding remember to breastfeed from one breast till your baby is satisfied and then offer the other side. This way the baby will get fully nutritious milk equally from both the breasts. As such, the milk of one breast may be given at least for 15-20 minutes
-The child could be breastfed in intervals as low as half an hour and anywhere less than two hours.
Introduction to solid food
As per the National Health Mission, when your child is more than six months old, they can gradually be given soft and mashed food prepared at home – cooked and mashed potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, etc. They could also be given soft cereals and fruits.
“You can give soft bananas and papaya also. Generally, prepare these food items which are available at home and which can be prepared easily. Give this complementary food 2 to 3 times in a day. Take care that the food is not very watery. Introduce food gradually, one by one. Do not start giving different type of foods all at once,” the guideline reads.
Graphics sourced from National Health Mission