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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Busting myths around breastfeeding

There are a lot of myths surrounding breastfeeding that have led to a decline in the practice. But doctors and experts have repeatedly stressed on its importance and here's why it is important.

Written by Deekshita Baruah | New Delhi |
Updated: August 8, 2017 6:31:53 pm
Breastfeeding helps a baby develop the required immunity to fight diseases and also develop a higher IQ. (Photo: Thinkstock) Breastfeeding helps a baby develop the required immunity to fight diseases and also develop a higher IQ. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Since the past few years, people have been negating the significance of breastfeeding. Sure, there have been some studies (mostly promoted by leading brands) dismissing it, but science have continued to uphold the importance of breastfeeding for a newborn.

Even supermodel and Queen actor, Lisa Haydon knows its importance. In an Instagram post, the Indian beauty wrote, “I’ve gotten loads of posts asking about life after having my son… esp to do with weight and fitness. Seeing as it’s World Breastfeeding Week- time to give some credit where credit is due. Breastfeeding has played such a big part in getting back into shape after giving birth to my baby. Breastfeeding has been challenging+time consuming (literally hours spent everyday trying to stimulate milk supply) but it’s such a beautiful way to bond and connect with your child plus all the nutritional benefits that your child gets from your milk.”

Needless, to say, it is the world’s best immuniser and can help a baby develop the required immunity to fight diseases such as gastrointestinal infections, urinary tract infection, childhood cancers, allergies, asthma, diarrhoea, HIV (from infected mothers), while providing life-long prevention from obesity. According to a 2015 study that was published in the Lancet, breastfeeding also helps a baby develop higher IQ. Now, wouldn’t you want that for your child?

But it’s just not the child who gains from it, even mothers stand to benefit from breastfeeding as it works as a protective shield against breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes and post-menopausal osteoporosis. It also aids in losing post-pregnancy weight and lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s at a later age. According to World Cancer Research Fund International, women who breastfeed for at least a year, not necessarily at a stretch, are 5 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer. The longer a woman breastfeeds; the more she sets the high hormone levels required for lactation, which affects cell growth by protecting the breast against changes that would otherwise make the breasts vulnerable to breast cancer. In addition, the fact that women cease to ovulate during the time of producing milk also contributes in protection against the possibility of breast or ovarian cancer. But owing to changing lifestyle, women are gradually moving away from this practice. It is important that mothers don’t skip this lactation phase and wean away the newborns from colostrum (the yellowish colour milk) during the early days. Introducing babies to top feed within the first six months should be strictly avoided.

Dr Tripat Chaudhary, director, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis La Femme, says, “Vedic literature and Ayurveda highlights the importance of breastfeeding and signifies breast milk as the elixir of life. There have been two major myths associated with the culture. First, that prelacteal feeds (mixture of honey and ghee to newborn for energy and easier acceptance of feeds) which actually leads to infection and delays in initiation of breastfeeding and the second that of destroying, which actually is most nutritious and beneficial for the baby.”

Dr Raghuram Mallaiah, director, Neonatology, Fortis La Femme adds, “As per WHO and UNICEF guidelines, early initiation of breast milk is most beneficial. The education on this should be actively provided to new mothers and the families. The new born should be immediately moved to the mother except in very complicated deliveries. Babies should get the opportunity to latch on in the first hour and the sooner the baby latches on the early the initiation is.”

Popular breastfeeding myths busted

How to go about it
First, proper education for mothers and the family is a must and should start as early as the second trimester. Second, for a mother, the main priority should be to nurse her baby. The longer the period of breastfeeding, the more the benefits. If you are a lactating mom we suggest you follow the age-old technique but in case you have trouble feeding your child directly, then it doesn’t mean that you have to discontinue it. There are many accessories that can help you in working out your feeding challenges. Here are a few that Dr Madhavi Latha, certified lactation consultant, physical therapist and a Lamaze-certified childbirth educator, suggests you should swear by:

* If you are a working mother who wants to continue to breastfeed, a breast pump should be an essential part of your routine. Breast pumps help in extracting milk from a lactating mother which is later bottle fed to the child by a caregiver. A breast pump may also be used to stimulate lactation for women with a low milk supply.

* Many new moms may develop sore, painful, cracked nipples initially because of improper baby latch. Nipple shield or hydrogel pads is a great way to save yourself from sore, cracked nipples. Another accessory that you should keep handy is a nipple puller if your nipple is flat, inverted or puckered.

* If you are a nursing mother managing household chores or working from home, breastfeeding at regular intervals could be a tiring task. Nursing tanks allow new mothers to breastfeed comfortably without any hassle. Bonus: They can be layered up inside tees or maxis when you go out.

* New moms pumping milk to feed the baby at a later time need to store it somewhere. Breast milk storage bags are convenient to use for such a purpose. If you don’t like the idea of filling your freezer with plastic bags of milk and only need to store a small amount at a time, try filling up extra baby bottles with pumped milk. Then label and store them in the refrigerator for up to eight days.

* Go for a nursing bra as it provides the additional support and permits comfortable breastfeeding without the need to remove the bra. Celebrity moms like Angelina Jolie and Jessica Alba have been spotted wearing nursing bras during the first few months of their delivery.

* Considering the fact that a baby requires feeding every 2 hours (or more), it can really take a toll on your back. Having a pillow to prop your little one on while nursing can lighten your load, might ease back pain and make the experience better.

Breast cancer accounts for 25-32 per cent of all cancer in females and largely affects women below 50 years of age, that is, 48 per cent of women between ages 20 and 50 years. In India, breast cancer rates have relatively been low in the past but with the changing scenario there has been a sudden rise in the graph among females. A study by All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Indian Council of Medical Research has unveiled that urban working women who yield to higher abortions, late reproduction, shorter periods of breastfeeding and larger consumption of oral contraceptive pills have higher vulnerability to breast and ovarian cancer.

📣 The above article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional for any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

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