'Newborns shouldn't be given formula immediately after birth'

Breastfeeding is definitely not an easy task, and it is even more challenging when mothers are working.

Knowing the fact that breast milk is the best food for the baby, many mothers still opt for formula feeding as they find breastfeeding to be harder than they expected.

Breastfeeding is definitely not an easy task, and it is even more challenging when mothers are working. Problems associated with breastfeeding have become a near-universal experience amongst mothers, particularly first-time mothers.

Breastfeeding can be an agony until one gets the hang of it. But, with practice and help from experts, breastfeeding can get easier because it is a learned skill and not necessarily one that comes naturally.

In an exclusive interview with Salome Phelamei of Zee Media Corp, Dr Madhavi Latha, Lactation Consultant at Apollo Cradle and Femiint Health, Bangalore, shared some real-life solutions and tips to help lactating moms get the right track while making breastfeeding journey a pleasant experience.

Many mothers still opt for formula feeding instead of them nursing their babies. What is your take on this? Suggest some measures how mothers can overcome these common breastfeeding challenges?

It is absolutely not recommended to give formula feed in place of mother’s milk; there could be initial hitches, ups and downs with breastfeeding but it gets easier by the day. The key is to 'not give up'.

The easier ways to overcome these problems are to be very clear and positive about breastfeeding and get all the questions or myths women might have cleared. Seeking help from an experienced friend, family or sometimes professional help from lactation consultant and the most important is to attain a good/ optimal latch which will solve 90% of feeding difficulties. Spending time with nursing mothers and observing how they do it and also learning about breastfeeding prior to baby’s birth takes care of most of the doubts.

There are a number of options available today to make it easier for mothers to administer breast milk. With the help of breast pumps and specially designed feeder bottles, mothers can collect and store their breast milk to feed to the baby later on, allowing them to give the baby breast milk over formula milk.

If a mother is working or needs to be physically away from her baby, she can plan to express her breast milk using a manual or powered breast pump around her baby’s feeding schedule, and then store the milk to feed the baby as and when needed.

Is it okay to feed babies with formula immediately after birth if mothers can't produce milk (enough milk)?

The first three days after baby’s birth, the pre milk or colostrum is the only milk available, the quantity of which is very little. Milk production increases as the baby latches on and sucks. New born baby requires only about 7-10 ml of milk in the first few days and colostrum being very thick and rich in protein, vitamins and minerals suffices the purpose very easily.

It is not a good idea to give formula immediately after birth because “colostrum” has concentrated immunological properties which are your baby’s protection against exposure to germs. These concentrated “Secretory Immunoglobulin A” (sIgA), which coats the baby’s intestines and protects the baby from foreign proteins and germs which can cause allergic sensitivity in the baby.

Once the baby is given formula after birth baby loses on this most effective anti-infective (sIgA) coating.

What to do when baby refuses to breastfeed?

In that case, a mother should try to find out the reason for the baby refusing the breastfeeding. Sometimes, improper or inconvenient positions could be the reason for refusal, correction of which can make it a smooth process.

After all the required effort, if the baby still refuses feeding from mother, expression and feeding mother’s milk is the next best alternative.

Should exclusive breastfeeding be limited to six months or more?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and breast milk with additional food from 6 months to one year. Ideally, feeding can be continued for two years of baby’s life.

How can mothers deal with sore breasts and nipple pain?

1. Sore Nipples and nipple pain are almost always because of improper positioning and poor latch, correcting these will help most of the times.

2. Expressing a drop of hindmilk and letting it dry to air after every feed helps in healing sore nipples.

3. Usage of nipple shield and hydrogel pads can give great relief.

4. Lanolin based creams offer quick relief from sore nipples ( Purelan cream from Medela)

Suggest some breastfeeding tips for beginners:

  • Learn about breastfeeding prior to baby’s birth
  • Feed the baby as soon as possible after birth, best is to feed within the first one hour after birth
  • Have a clear conscience towards breast feeding
  • Get all your myths cleared
  • Learn comfortable holds and understand about optimal latch to trigger a smooth start
  • Seek professional help if required before giving up