By Dr Indira Chaturvedi MBBS., A.B.

Breastfeeding is not only an excellent source of nutrition for your infant but also offers several benefits for the baby to grown into a healthy, strong toddler. 

Not to forget, it helps you in nurturing a strong emotional bond with your child that goes a long way in developing their mental and emotional wellbeing.  

World Breast Feeding Week from August 1 to 7 has gained quite a bit of popularity, thanks to the efforts put in by the World Alliance of Breastfeeding Action and is observed across 120 countries by the UNICEF, WHO, individuals, organizations and governments.

The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommend exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of life and then supplemented breast feeding at least for one or two years.

As a pediatrician, I often come across several queries that are related to breastfeeding especially from the first-time mothers. There are very strange theories, myths always doing rounds from old wives’ tales to the advice shared by few finicky friends.

The mother’s milk offers unparalleled nutrition and should be often remembered as an integral part of reproductive system and helps in mothers in being healthy.

When should you start feeding your baby?

Ideally, doctors encourage to initiate breastfeeding within first hour of the life. The first milk from the mother ‘Colostrum’ often referred as ‘liquid gold’ or ‘immune milk’ usually produced within the first day of the delivery.

Colostrum is loaded with proteins, carbs, and lipids and offers unmatchable benefits to your baby. It helps in promoting the digestive system of the baby and often helps in clearing the digestive tract from meconium (first dark stool).

It also contains antibodies for promoting the immune system and safeguard from infections in throat, lungs and intestines.

The colostrum gets replaced slowly by thinner milk (mature milk) by fourth day of the delivery and it will meet the nutritional needs of your new born child.

It is a common occurrence for a new mother to feel anxious while feeding baby for the first time. The key is not to fret over, keep calm and encourage your baby to latch properly. Always remember, breastfeeding is a natural process and babies are smart enough to master it in no time.

How much and When to feed?

On the day one the baby’s capacity would be around 5 to 7 ml and colostrum should be able to meet their needs. By one week the tummy grows a little bigger and mature milk will be enough to satisfy their hunger.

Do not worry, if your milk production is low. Feed as often as you can to increase milk supply to sufficient levels.

If you still feel there is not enough breast milk, talk to your pediatrician if it can be supplemented with infant formula milk. Discuss if it is absolutely required.

Understand your child’s hunger needs first. Few babies signal if they are hungry usually by crying or sucking their fingers, few babies don’t. Be aware to their signals of their hunger pangs.

If you feel your child doesn’t send across any signals even while being hungry, stick to a schedule. Nurse for at least for every 2 to 3 hours, even in the middle of the night for gaining enough weight and nutrition.

Benefits of Breastfeeding for the first six months:

Pediatricians, gynecologists across the world unanimously agree with the several advantages of breastfeeding the baby for the first six months.

It is an ideal nutrition for infants, easily digested than infant formula.

Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby in fighting various viruses and bacteria.

Many researches have shown that breastfed babies suffer from fewer ear infections, respiratory related ailments and diarrhea.

The America Academy of Pediatrics says that breastfeeding lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and helps in gaining right amount of weight.

It offers enormous benefits for the mothers too. It helps to shed pregnancy weight faster, reduces uterine bleeding after delivery, and lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The Forever Bonding:

Breastfeeding helps in having skin-to-skin contact with your child, eye contact and establish a stronger bond with you and family for a secured, healthy life ahead. Dr Indira Chaturvedi is a well-known Pediatrician. She is a member of American Board of Pediatrics. She practices in Chennai and be contacted at 9884466257 for appointments.