`Kids should be breastfed till the age of 2`

Indeed nothing can replace the genuineness of mother’s milk for the newborn. Hence, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from August 1 to 7 each year in more than 170 countries to promote breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.

In an exclusive interview with Salome Phelamei of Zeenews.com, Dr Neerja Varshney, D.A.,D.G.O, PGDHHM, HOD Gynae Dr Hedgewar Arogya Sansthan, Karkardooma, Delhi, & H.O.O Kanti Nagar Maternity Centre, Delhi, talked about the importance and the benefits of breastfeeding.

Why is breastfeeding important?

Breast feeding is important because:

-It is a complete food for newborns

-Breastfed children are more healthy and brainy

-It reduces morbidity and mortality

-It increases bonding with mother

-It is economic for our country.

Please explain how breast milk protects a newborn? Also tell us the health benefits of breastfeeding for moms.

Breast milk protects infants against infections/ diseases. Colostrum, the first milk, provides natural immunological protection to newborn. It is a complex food rich in nutrients which promotes infant’s health, growth & development. Breast milk also protects babies against Asthma, Type I Diabetes, Necrotizing Enterocolitis.

In mothers, breastfeeding helps her to get back in shape, decreases post delivery bleeding, protects against pregnancy, and enhances emotional and physical contact with the baby. Breastfeeding also reduces risk of Postpartum Depression, Breast Cancer, Ovarian Cancer and Osteoporosis.

How many infants are breastfed in India?

Initiation of breastfeeding in our country is only 24.5% in first one hour, whereas exclusive breast feeding for 6 months is 46-55.6%.

Suggest some good food items for moms who are lactating.

Whole grains, cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, yoghurt, cheese, paneer (i.e food that provide protein, calcium, and iron).

Are there any food items one should avoid?

Mother can eat & drink whatever she likes but food leading to allergies should be avoided.

Avoid Caffeine, alcohol and toxins.

When should a baby start eating solid foods?

After 6 months.

How long should a newborn be breastfed?

As long as mother can breastfeed, preferably till 2 years of age

If one smokes, can she still breastfeed? What are the risks?

Smoking during breastfeeding leads to lower milk supply, alters milk composition, and Nicotine exposure in baby. There are behavioral changes in baby like colic & crying leading to early weaning.

Also, sleep disturbances have been seen in adolescents who were breast fed by mothers who smoke.

What can happen if baby is given someone else’s milk and not the mother’s?

Nothing will happen. People used wet nurses and milk banks for centuries. Still we have to be cautious as HIV & other infectious diseases can be transmitted through breast milk.

How will a mother know that her baby is getting sufficient breast milk?

If a baby is fed every 2-3 hours or at least 8 times in 24 hours, he is getting enough breast milk. Besides, the following characters can help you identify if your baby is receiving enough breast milk-

-Baby is sleeping and growing well

-Mother feels her breasts are emptied and feel softer after feeding the baby

-Baby is having healthy colour and firm skin

-Baby’s urine is pale and odourless and passing yellow mustard stools.

If a baby is not receiving enough milk, can the mother combine breastfeeding with infant formula? Does it pose any risk to the newborn?

Yes, it can be combined though formula milk can cause ear infections, diarrhea, and pneumonia.

Since most of women are working today, it has become difficult to feed their babies exclusively, therefore suggest some few tips related with breastfeeding for working moms.

-Breast milk can be stored for 4 hours at room temperature

-In a cold box with icepacks for up to 24 hours

-In a refrigerator with temperature of 4 degree for 3-5 days

-In a fridge freezer for 3 months

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