By Dr Preeti Gangan
In the earliest days of life when the baby is most susceptible to germs, a mother’s colostrum has the highest concentration of antibodies and immune molecules which her body makes against illnesses that she has been exposed to. She then passes these molecules to the baby through her milk. Mother’s milk provides antibodies to the baby, strengthening the immune system. There are many reasons why breastfeeding is beneficial for both the mother and baby, but during the cold winter months, it presents unique challenges.
Stepping out with your little one every season is so important. Not only does the fresh air help your little one but it is also great for mothers. Being out in the winter for long periods can be challenging but these should not stop you from venturing outdoors. Breastfeeding during winters can be a chilly affair. Here are a few things to take care of to help mothers comfortably breastfeed this winter:
Wear comfortable clothing
Removing jackets or sweatshirts to allow the baby access to mother’s breasts and feed the little one for 20-40 minutes exposes both to the cold winter temperatures and makes them vulnerable to falling ill. This can be minimised by layering your clothing or choosing a long-sleeved nursing top, zip-up sweatshirt or button-up sweater to wear. Babies can be kept warm in swaddling blankets, one-piece, long-sleeved sleepers or sleep sacks, and a removable lightweight jacket in case the day warms up unexpectedly. Skin-to-skin contact promotes bonding between the baby and parents, facilitating breastfeeding and regulating the baby’s temperature, and should be continued to keep baby warm and cosy in their loving embrace.
Cold winter months are often when one gets down with illnesses. One of the most common infections breastfeeding mothers easily catch is throat and sinus infection. This is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. Your baby is actually the person least likely to fall ill with your tummy upset or cold, as she has already been in close contact with you and is getting a daily dose of those protective antibodies from your milk.
Gargle with salt water as that can really help a sore throat. You could also consider using devices, used for nasal irrigation. It effectively removes mucus and lingering viruses from your sinuses for good. It feels amazing afterwards and is highly recommended for any breastfeeding mother since it’s completely safe.
If one must take medication for an illness, be sure to choose a medication that is safe for breastfeeding. Try and take minimal medications for cough and cold, as some anti-cold medications can actually reduce the mother’s breast milk supply.
(With inputs: Medela. The writer is an IBCLC certified consultant paediatrician.)