The World Breastfeeding Week 2022 was clebrated at the Shija Academy of Health Sciences. The event which was jointly organised with subject experts and stakeholders from across the state under the initiative of World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA).
Having exclusively breast-fed my two babies, many of the information shared seemed pertinent, relevant and for some, I had no clue until then.
The most heartening part of the event was that there were many male subject-experts and dignitaries, removing the draconian notion that breast-feeding is a “women’s issue”. As my little attempt to step up in support for the week-long celebration, I am summarizing the important highlights of the discussion.
The mother’s milk is designed for the young infant, customised to suit the growing baby’s needs at every phase. Exclusively breastfeeding the child till the age of six months is endorsed by every possible agency to avoid infanthood malnutrition and obesity alike. In fact, the WHO recommends breastfeeding every child till the age of two years. The mother’s milk is blessed with various protective agents, strengthening the child’s immune system and equipping the young individual to face the world brimming with pathogens. Maybe that explains why our Bollywood heroes like to brag about being breast-fed and hence being of superior strength!
Warm Chain Breast Feeding Friendly Environment
The educators highlighted a few vital points - the myths, the confusion and the psychology that goes behind breast-feeding.
It cannot be stressed enough that post-partum is a very vulnerable period of recuperating mothers. Baby blues, post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis are mental health dilemmas that can affect new mothers.
The need to do the best possible thing for the precious new-born stresses the whole family and makes one gullible for all sorts of misinformation and superstition, irrespective of the educational or professional backgrounds.
The bottom-line remains that stress, whether stemming from the pain, family, financial, emotional or physical cause can dramatically reduce the quantity of milk flow.
So any taunts or “guidance” to the new mothers are best avoided for the well-being of the child.
One commonly encountered but dangerous blunder is not recognizing the precious colostrum (almost transparent milk in the initial days) as breast-milk.
I have seen mothers cry over not having milk while the life-saving colostrum just waste away, unrecognized.
Early initiation of breast feeding, bodily contact with the new-born, proper positioning of the child’s mouth with respect to the breast were all vital points emphasised.
The child’s suckling and even thoughts of the baby triggers breastmilk production and likewise, time spent away from the baby can risk scant or cessation of milk flow.
Breast engorgement and cracked nipples are traumatic experiences of lactation. These can be minimised if the mothers are properly educated early on.
The need for a good support system was stressed. It is also important that as stakeholders we are aware of the provisions made and our rights for facilitating breast-feeding and better child care.
Like the Maternal Benefit Act which allows up to six months for the first two children and three months for subsequent children as Maternity Leave, there is also a provision for Child Care leave for up to two years in case of government employees.
The provision of a crèche at work places, feeding and childcare rooms in public spaces and a private space for expressing breast milk in case a mother wishes to are all rights that stakeholders need to be aware of.
A lactation consultant is a healthcare professional who specialises in the clinical management of breastfeeding and there is a International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) which certifies these lactation consultants who meet its criteria and have passed its exam.
In India, due to the dearth of certified Lactation Consultants or the lack of awareness, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has been educating the masses and professionals including doctors, nurses, social workers and other allied Health service providers so that everyone can be a stakeholder.
WABA aims at empowering the masses through:
Informing: The people about their role in strengthening the warm chain of support for breastfeeding.
Anchoring: Breastfeeding as a part of good nutrition, food security and reduction of inequalities.
Engaging: One and all - individuals and organisations along the warm chain of support for breastfeeding.
Subsequently Galvanising: action on strengthening capacity of actors and systems for transformational change.
So, let's step up for breastfeeding! Through education and support, we can protect, promote and support breastfeeding across different levels of society. Let’s pledge to celebrate and promote breast feeding in our own little way through knowledge and education.
(The views expressed are personal)