“Bottles fill his stomach, but breastfeeding fills his soul.” A breastfeeding mother has a strong emotional and physical bond with her child. A pair of practical helping hands can help tremendously postpartum giving a new mother time to recover from her labor and start breastfeeding. The theme for World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2021 is “Protect breastfeeding: a shared responsibility,” which highlights how breastfeeding benefits everyone’s survival, health, and happiness.

World Breastfeeding Week takes place every year from August 1 to 7 and its two main objectives are to improve the health of babies and to encourage and support women to breastfeed.

Rules of breastfeeding

  • Breastfeeding should begin within half an hour of birth.
  • 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding (not even a drop of water).
  • Starting at 6 months, add food while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years.

Advantages of breastfeeding

For Babies

  • Colostrum, which includes IG A and has a higher calorie and laxative action, is the first immunization for newborns
  • Breast milk provides a complete meal for a baby
  • Easily digestible
  • Because it contains immunoglobulins, cellular components, and Bifidus factor, it protects  against infection
  • Aid in brain development and IQ
  • Protects from allergy
  • Lower rates of diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), obesity, and childhood cancer 
  • Stronger immune systems
  • Less illness overall and less hospitalization

For Mother:

  • Promotes child and mother bonding
  • Natural form of birth control, only if exclusively breastfeeding
  • Less postpartum bleeding
  • To create and sustain a milk supply, breastfeeding  burns roughly 500 additional calories each day after delivery, promoting faster weight loss
  • Helps in the involution of the uterus
  • Reduces risk of ovarian and breast cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease

Alternatives to breastfeeding

Although breastfeeding is highly beneficial for both the child and mother, the reality is that many women cannot breastfeed for various reasons. A few examples of why women are unable to breastfeed stem from past breast surgery, chemotherapy, incurable illnesses, having a low milk supply, or if their child is allergic to something in their breast milk. It is important that mothers are not judged, rather they are given space to discover which methods work best for them and their baby. 

Infant formula feeds are a nutritional alternative to breast milk, containing several vitamins and elements that breastfed newborns require. Other alternatives could include using milk donors. Talk to a doctor to get the best plan of action that would be beneficial for both mother and child.

Signs of effective breastfeeding

  • 8-12 times feeding daily
  • Infants should have about 6-8 wet diapers in a day 
  • Infants should have a minimum of 3-4 bowel movements every day
  • By the tenth day of life, infants have regained their birth weight

Positioning and attachment of baby while breastfeeding

While breastfeeding the position of the baby includes:

  • Supporting the baby’s whole body
  • Ensure the baby’s head, neck, and back are all on the same plane.
  • Baby’s entire body should face the mother
  • Baby’s abdomen should touch mother’s abdomen. 

Proper attachment of baby on mother’s breast 

  • Baby’s mouth wide open
  • Lower lip turned outwards
  • Baby’s chin should touch the mother’s breast
  • Majority of the areola should be inside the baby’s mouth

Nutrition for mothers while breastfeeding

  • Drink eight glasses of fluid (at least 1 extra liter of fluid) daily
  • Take a multivitamin with iron supplements
  • Breastfeeding mothers need to consume 500+ calories daily
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Caffeinated beverages should be avoided or limited to one to two cups per day.

Breastfeeding during COVID-19

There’s not enough data to confirm the transmission of COVID-19 through breast milk and breastfeeding. It is recommended to continue breastfeeding even if the mother is COVID positive, and lactating mothers can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Breastfeeding mothers who have received COVID-19 mRNA vaccinations have antibodies in their breast milk, which provides protection for their newborns. 

Tips for keeping mothers and babies safe during the pandemic:

  • Practice the 3 Ws while feeding:
    • Wear a mask during feeding
    • Wash hands with soap before and after touching the baby 
    • Wipe and disinfect surfaces regularly
  • When you’re too unwell to breastfeed, use a cup and spoon to feed your baby extracted breastmilk.
  • If the mother is unable to breastfeed, use extra caution during formula feeding.

Talk to your gynecologist

Consult with your doctor if you have any questions regarding your baby and breastfeeding. At any time if you notice inverted or flat nipples, if your nipples feel sore, breast engorgement, breast abscess, or if there’s not enough milk, talk to your doctor right away to help you manage your and your baby’s health. 

Support a breastfeeding mother

All mothers require assistance, and no matter your relationship with her, there are things you can do to assist her:

  • Make sure she has food and drinks to keep up her energy
  • Make an effort to spend some uninterrupted time with each other
  • Hold the baby so she can take a break
  • Help with baby duties – nappy change, late-night strolls
  • Comfort crying babies while she gets some sleep

As a mother learns to breastfeed, knowledge, enthusiasm, and support are all important. If she is having difficulty breastfeeding, her partner can encourage her and assist her in overcoming challenges. Breastfeeding is a responsibility that must be shared by both parents.

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