Encouraging Breastfeeding: Promoting Mothers’ and Babies’ Health and Well-Being

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By Dr Mini Salunkhe: Director-Obstetrics, Sahyadri Super Speciality Hospital, Hadapsar Annexe

Pune, 4th August 2023: Long recognised as a crucial practise, breastfeeding provides a number of advantages for both mothers and new-borns. Despite its benefits, breastfeeding rates have fallen in many societies throughout the world. A multifaceted strategy that takes into account cultural views, women’s working situations, healthcare services, and educational initiatives is required to enhance breastfeeding practises. The purpose is to examine the value of breastfeeding, its implications on society at large, the nutritional needs of nursing moms, and the effects of stress on lactation.

The Global Importance of Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding helps children, mothers, and society at large in terms of short and long-term health, economic, and environmental advantages. According to studies[i], not breastfeeding is associated with lower IQ and annual economic losses of around $302 billion, or 0.49% of the global gross national income. To protect, promote, and encourage breastfeeding in order to obtain these benefits, political support and financial commitment is crucial.

Caring in the Twenty-First Century: Epidemiology and Long-Term Effects of Breastfeeding is significant in low-income and middle-income nations, but its relevance in high-income ones is still up for discussion. In low and middle-income countries, only 37% of children younger than 6 months of age are exclusively breastfed, contrarily, breastfeeding periods are frequently lower in high-income nations. Numerous advantages of breastfeeding have been emphasised by meta-analyses, such as defence against childhood illnesses, improved IQ, and prospective decreases in obesity and diabetes. Breastfeeding offers nursing mothers defence against breast cancer, increased birth spacing, and potential defence against ovarian and type 2 diabetes. Increasing breastfeeding rates to almost universal levels might avert 20,000 breast cancer deaths per year and over 823,000 infant deaths[ii].

Nutritional Advice for Nursing Mothers – Mothers who are breastfeeding need to eat a balanced diet to guarantee their own and their baby’s best health. Weight loss diets should be avoided when nursing since they can impair milk supply and result in malnutrition. On the other hand, several foods, including garlic, guar gums, nuts and seeds, makhane, dalia, moong split dal, ghee, munnaka, and anjeer, are advantageous at this time. Alcohol, unpasteurized milk products, artificial sweeteners, and excessive caffeine use, however, should be avoided by mothers as they may have a detrimental influence on milk supply and the health of the unborn child.

Strategies for Coping with Stress and Lactation for New Mothers – Up to 20% of urban people experience postpartum stress, which is becoming more prevalent among new moms. Stress can affect breastfeeding, change the content of breast milk, and cause problems with an infant’s growth. Additionally, it might impact the mother-baby attachment and the mood and behaviour of the child. Open communication between couples is essential to managing postpartum stress, as so is making time for oneself and obtaining both emotional and physical support. Stress levels can be lowered by using relaxation strategies, such as nursing in a serene environment and feeding mindfully. Oxytocin, sometimes known as the “love hormone,” is released during breastfeeding and can help to create a peaceful atmosphere for both mother and child.

There are several advantages for women and babies for breastfeeding, which continues to be a cornerstone of infant health and wellbeing. A comprehensive strategy that includes judicial actions, public awareness campaigns, and support at all levels is required to encourage and support breastfeeding. In order to maintain optimal breastfeeding and favourable outcomes for both the mother and the child, nursing moms must also adopt a balanced diet and learn to successfully manage their stress. We can create a world where people are healthier and happier by educating and supporting women in our society.

[i] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306919202000702

[ii] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140673602094540