Breast milk is the complete source of nutrition for a baby from birth till six months of age. It is strongly promoted by all obstetricians and pediatricians. Breastfeeding is the cornerstone of infant and young child survival, nutrition and development and maternal health. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to two years and beyond.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from August 1 to August 7 to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. This year with the pandemic of coronavirus breastfeeding is even more important. Breastmilk is the most natural immunity booster for any child. In this pandemic, mothers who were planning to stop breastfeeding should also be encouraged to continue for a few more months. Multivitamins and other supplements can never provide the same level of immunity as breastmilk. Breastfeeding provides antibodies, growth factors along with vitamins, minerals and all other nutrients.
Dr. Preeti Sharma
Kims Cuddles, Kondapur explains COVID and breastfeeding
With the community spread of COVID, many mothers are being diagnosed with COVID. Mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate or continue to breastfeed. The benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks for transmission.
Mother and infant should be enabled to remain together while rooming-in throughout the day and night and to practice skin-to-skin contact, including kangaroo mother care, especially immediately after birth and during the establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
If mother is breastfeeding and has any symptoms or is a confirmed COVID-19, case she should take steps to avoid spreading the virus to your baby:
• Wash hands before touching your baby
• Wear a cloth face covering, or face mask while feeding at the breast
• Wash your hands before touching pump or bottle parts and clean all parts after each use
DO NOT STOP BREASTFEEDING, TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL BREASTFEEDING FOR MOTHERS
• Insist on feeding the baby within the first hour of birth. You can do that even if it is a caesarean section.
• Learn the proper technique like latching, positioning from the hospital staff.
• It may take some time for you and the baby to adjust to breastfeeding. Do not give up in the first few days and avoid using bottles, nipples, pacifiers etc.
• First you should be comfortable while breastfeeding. Have good support for the back.
• Block out all the negative comments such as “If your breasts are not overflowing you do not have enough milk” and “If the baby is feeding more frequently that means breast milk is not sufficient give formula.” These are all myths. If you have any doubts please consult your obstetrician or pediatrician.
• Pumping of breast milk – This is very useful especially for working mothers. There are manual and electric breast pumps available in the market. Applying a warm towel to your breasts 15-20 minutes before pumping helps to increase milk volume. You can pump breast milk in your office also.
• Storage of breast milk – Breast milk stored at room temperature should be used within four hours. In the winter season or in a cold climate it can be used up to six hours. Breast milk should be stored in the refrigerator at the back. Never store milk in the door of the refrigerator and avoid opening the refrigerator frequently. Do not leave the door open for a long time. Breast milk stored in a refrigerator can be used within two to three days but in a tropical country like India it is better to use the milk within one to two days. In refrigerators, with a separate freezer compartment, (temperature of – 18 C) breast milk can be stored for three to six months. In places with frequent power cuts and no back up for running refrigerator, it is advisable not to store breast milk.
• Using stored breastmilk-When the baby needs to be fed, place the milk in a container with hot water or keep it under the tap with running hot water for one to two minutes. After this, the milk should be used within one to two hours. Never heat breast milk directly or microwave it. The cream of the milk may form a separate layer. Before giving it to the baby swirl the milk but do not shake it. Before using it, frozen milk should be thawed by placing it in the refrigerator. Once the milk has been thawed it can be kept for 24 hours in the refrigerator before use. Do not refreeze thawed milk.
• There is no shame in breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding in public should be encouraged and supported by everyone.