Breastfeeding creates skin-to-skin contact, which develops a special bond between the mother and child.
Volumes have been written about the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding and the subject is relevant for all times.
“Breast milk is very important for a new-born. Besides, as much as it is important for the child, breastfeeding is also a great health source for mothers,” says Dr Maisaa Al Sulaiman, specialist family medicine, Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery (BHAS). “Breastfeeding mums can shed pregnancy weight and protect against breast or ovarian cancer later in life.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast feeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with complementary foods until at least 12 months of age.’’
The following is an interview with Dr Maisaa.
Dr Maisaa Al Sulaiman, specialist family medicine, Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery (BHAS).
Why is breastfeeding considered vital for babies?
Breast milk keeps the baby healthy and provides all the necessary nutrients in the right proportions. It also protects them against allergies, sickness and obesity. It offers a defence mechanism against diseases like diabetes and cancer, prevents infections – particularly ear infections that are common among infants. In addition, it is easily digestible; hence constipation, diarrhoea and similar digestive tract problems are kept at bay. Breast-fed babies have healthier weights as they grow and are found to score higher in IQ tests.
Isn’t opting to breastfeed a personal choice?
Yes, it is; however, it has been observed that three in five babies, mostly born in low and middle income countries, are not breastfed within the first hour of life, placing them at higher risk of death and disease, according to a new United Nations report. According to the same report, new-born babies who breastfeed in the first hour of life are significantly more likely to survive.
Earlier studies, cited in the report, show that new-borns who began breastfeeding between two and 23 hours after birth, had a 33 per cent greater risk of dying, compared to those who breastfed within 1 hour. And the risk more than doubled among new-borns who started a day or more after birth.
What is the psychological impact?
Breastfeeding creates skin-to-skin contact, which develops a special bond between the mother and child. It is critical that babies are brought in contact with mothers as soon as possible after birth, as this is the time when mother’s production of breast milk, including colostrum, is produced ahead of regular milk. Colostrum is thick, yellowish and produced in limited quantity, but helps take care of the initial nutritional needs of the baby. It helps a newborn’s digestive tract develop, preparing it for digestion of breast milk. It is also rich in nutrients and antibodies hence referred to as the baby’s first vaccine.
What are the useful tips for a new mother?
It is important for a new mother to breastfeed soon after birth and as frequently as 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period. Hold your baby skin-to-skin and keep your baby with you while in the hospital. Do not give a pacifier or bottle until breastfeeding is well established. Give only breast milk and do not try to supplement it with external feeds unless necessary or advised by the doctor.
What are some of the misconceptions about breastfeeding?
As a lactation consultant, I find that one of the greatest misconceptions about breastfeeding is the supply and demand aspect of milk production. It should be noted that more the baby feeds, as long as baby is attaching and suckling correctly, the more milk will be made. It’s a natural process. Mothers shouldn’t worry if the baby keeps feeding regularly. The supply is only bound to become more and not less.
What are the best foods that can be recommended to ensure a healthy production of breast milk?
There are several foods that can help improve the supply of breast milk. Oatmeal is one of the best foods for boosting the milk supply. It has good source of nutrients that are important for breastfeeding. In addition to foods, doctors recommend mothers to drink plenty of water and relax well to be able to boost milk supply.
What kind of professional help is available for lactating mothers?
While breastfeeding offers optimal health benefits to mother and child, some mums may experience difficulty with the process. Experts at Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery can help women who find it difficult to lactate. Breastfeeding gets easier if women have good up-to-date information on hand. Knowledge leads to empowerment and gives more confidence.
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