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09 Aug 2022, 22:07 HRS IST
  • PTI
  • Breastfeeding 'woes' for new mothers

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11:36 HRS IST

By Saloni Bhatia and Anjali Pillay

New Delhi, Aug 6 (PTI)
Suhani (name changed) dreaded the time when she had to feed her newborn since she felt she was not generating enough milk for her child, who would keep bawling despite being fed every two hours.

As a new mother, her feelings of happiness were overcome by guilt and helplessness as everyone around her told her that she should start giving formula milk to her child.

"It was a very difficult situation for me. I was under tremendous stress and to add to that, my in-laws would crack jokes like 'a milk-rearing cow would have been better than you'. Even though these things were said in jest, such comments affected me so much that I was unable to generate enough milk for my son, who was subsequently fed only cow milk and formula," the 30-year-old woman said.

According to experts, every second mother is a victim of such misconceptions bandied about in Indian joint family set-ups, where the excitement over the arrival of a child leads to the mother being ignored.

During the International Breastfeeding Week that is underway till August 7, experts stressed that family support is a must for new mothers since they are undergoing so much physiologically and psychologically.

"Every second mother I see here or outside the hospital is fed this notion that she is not generating enough milk for her baby. The arrival of a baby is a joyous occasion and everybody has a lot of suggestions to offer to new mothers. For the new mothers, it is difficult to understand what they should follow. There is no mother who cannot make sufficient milk for her child," emphasised Dr Sakshi Bhardwaj, consultant, lactation sciences, HCMCT Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka.

Doctors also say stress is a huge factor that inhibits milk supply. The pain following a C-section coupled with sleepless nights affects the milk supply in a woman.

"It is tough -- sleepless nights, post-delivery body aches and pains, adjustments for the baby, so many people judging the new mother. This takes a huge toll, leading to stress and difficulty in breastfeeding.

"I advise them to keep their mental health and the child's welfare as priority and not listen much to comments. But in joint family set-ups, it is not always possible. I tell them that lactation failure is very rare and it is all related to stress," said Dr Uma Vaidyanathan, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh.

So what should a new mother do? Thankfully, these days, they have help in the form of lactation consultants, who handhold them in this new journey.

"We have this programme where we counsel mothers-to-be before their delivery and their relatives that a child crying does not necessarily mean he is hungry. It is their way of communication. Always demand-feed a baby and do not schedule-feed. If a baby is hungry, you should watch out for gestures like taking their hands to mouth, trying to take things to their mouth," said Bhardwaj, the mother of a four-year-old boy.

Shamita, a communication consultant, benefited hugely from going for professional assistance.

When she gave birth to her son in December last year, Shamita could not breastfeed him due to latching issues.

"People around me -- from visitors to family members -- perceived that I was not getting the feed and the baby will have to be formula fed. I was very upset with this sort of negativity around me on day 1 of the C-sec birth. As the day progressed, when I hugged the baby, the feed started to flow and my breasts were leaking. Not just once but many times the breasts leaked. I immediately approached the lactation consultant and after assessing me, they said the feed is very good and I should feed the baby as much as I can," she said.

"That was a moment of great pride for me. Post discharge, the old school of thought continued to ask me questions like 'are you generating enough milk to feed your baby' or tell me 'that your feed is not sufficient for the baby'. I did feel demotivated with such statements but continued to remain positive," Shamita said.

In fact, with breastfeeding, she said she was able to cure her child's jaundice as she used to feed him every two hours. Till date, she uses breast milk to cure her child of seasonal illnesses, Shamita said.

She stressed that visiting a doctor is important to rule out or treat any underlying, contributing issues and ensure that the mammary glands are functioning properly.

Dipti Shah, lactation consultant, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Mumbai, echoed the views of Bhardwaj.

"Of the mothers who visit for a follow-up after discharge, approximately 50 per cent assume that they have less milk, especially those who have not attended breastfeeding sessions. Very few mothers have actual problems of having less," she said.

Shah attributed it to lack of knowledge and confidence, pressure from family and friends and the myths surrounding breastfeeding.

Her advice to new mothers is that when a child is born, it is important to monitor vitals like the feeding frequency, the frequency of urine and stool as well as its weight.

Another factor is to examine the latching of the child on the breast.

"A few things to reinforce are more suckling, making more milk and feeding the baby at least eight to 10 times in 24 hours. Give maximum areola in the baby's mouth, monitor urine (at least six wet diapers in 24 hours), stool (yellow frequent stool after five days) and weight (seven-eight per cent weight loss in the first three-four days, after that the baby should start gaining weight)," she asserted.

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