Breastfeeding for up to first six months is a gateway to good health for the child: HCFI

11:18 am Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine

Colostrum or the first milk is akin to “liquid gold” and boosts immunity

New Delhi, 9th May 2019: Feeding breastmilk to premature babies during the first month of life appears to stimulate more robust brain growth, as per a recent study. It indicated that cerebral white matter showed significantly greater levels of a molecule similar to glucose for babies fed breast milk, compared with babies who were fed formula.[1] Research also suggests that babies who are exclusively breastfed for at least two months stand a lesser chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Only 54.9 % children under the age of six months have been exclusively breastfed, according to the latest National Health and Family Survey (NHFS-4). There are ongoing efforts worldwide to improve the rates of breastfeeding, and the WHO has the goal of having more than half of infants worldwide being breastfed exclusively for at least six months by 2025. The need of the hour is to create wide awareness on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months after birth.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Breastfeeding is an essential requirement for infants at least up to the first 6 months. Exclusive breastfeeding can reduce chances of infections and diseases by building their immunity. However, there could be several factors that discourage women from breastfeeding: lack of designated places for women to feed the child, minimal understanding of the concept and family pressure. In addition, there are many infant feed formulations available in the market. This is sometimes projected as a healthy alternative and can be a deterrent to breastfeeding.”

Breast milk is rich in antibodies and enzymes that offer a child protection against several diseases. Studies have found that children who are exclusively breastfed also gain weight better, have higher IQ, better immunity and are less prone to allergies and infection.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Colostrum is like ‘liquid gold’ for the baby. It is rich in fat and antibodies and coats the baby’s gastro-intestinal system. When the baby is out of the mother’s womb, it is attacked from outside by several factors. It is the colostrum that offers protection.”

The following points are a must to remember after childbirth.

  • Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitizer before handling the baby.
  • Be careful to support the baby’s head and neck.
  • Start breastfeeding within an hour of birth.
  • Ensure that the baby is exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months.
  • Child should be fed on demand or at least 8 times in 24 hours.
  • Avoid feeding honey, water or things other than breast milk in lieu of a ritual as it can be a source of infection to a baby.
  • Give the baby a sponge bath until the umbilical cord falls off and the navel heals completely (1-4 weeks).
  • Kangaroo Mother Care especially for low birth weight infants, wherein the baby is held in a special way stuck with the chest to provide skin to skin contact with the mother along with exclusive and frequent breastfeeding.

[1] Study presented at the Meeting Pediatric Academic Societies.

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