World Breastfeeding Week: Things to know about breastfeeding before having a baby

There are many advantages and health benefits of breastfeeding a child. It is said that when a newborn is breastfed, they receive all the necessary immunity-boosters from the mother’s milk. Sometimes, some mothers may have to switch to formula, in case they produce insufficient breast milk, but that is another discussion.

Did you know that the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding within one hour after birth, and upto six months of age? Doctors say breastfeeding decreases the risk of pneumonias, diarrhoea, and ear infections in babies, besides protecting them from allergies and increasing their IQ.

With breastfeeding week being observed around the world, it is important to address an aspect of it that not many people think about: what are the things that a couple, especially the mother-to-be, should know about before having a baby.

Dr Shalini Chico, senior consultant neonatologist at Fortis La Femme Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru says after the gruelling process of delivery, the mother has hardly time to recover before the baby has to be put to the breast. Which is why these points can help her be more prepared for the process before the little one arrives. Read on.

* Learn the basics: Most hospitals hold antenatal classes, or have a lactation consultant, who can offer training on the different ways in which one can feed the baby, the various holds and the proper method of attachment to the breast. It is best to consult your doctor or lactation consultant to examine the breast and nipples, in order to identify issues like flat or inverted nipples, which can be a potential hurdle initially. Your consultant can explain how to overcome these issues so that the first few days are not overwhelming. This could potentially reduce unwanted complications like sore nipples, breast engorgement or ineffective latch.

* Stock up: On appropriate and safe clothing to feed the baby comfortably, both in hospital and at home. Breast pads may be required after the first few days, once milk starts coming in. A breast pump may be required in the first few weeks, especially if the baby is unable to suckle due to prematurity or any other issues.

* Have a plan: Draw up a plan with your doctor to ensure you feed within the first hour after delivery, unless there is any medical issue with the baby or mother, which would be a contraindication for direct breastfeeding. Colostrum — baby’s first natural immunisation — is the first sticky yellowish milk produced at the end of pregnancy, loaded with nutrients and antibodies. Hence, it is vital babies get it in the first hour of life. Ensure skin to skin contact after a normal delivery and as soon as practically possible after a cesarean section; this helps in establishing a better latch to the breast.

It’s important to delegate responsibilities like the household or routine chores. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

* Enlist help from other family members: It’s important to delegate responsibilities like the household or routine chores or taking care of an older child, if any. This will ensure that the mother can focus only on feeding the baby and getting adequate rest in between.

* Breastfeeding and Covid: Mothers who happen to be diagnosed with Covid infection during or prior to the delivery are also urged to continue breastfeeding, with adequate precautions like wearing a mask and proper hand washing. Lactating mothers can safely take the vaccine and continue to breastfeed.

* Be mentally ready: Breastfeeding is a time consuming, and sometimes exhausting, job . In the first few weeks, babies need to be fed every 2-3 hours, sometimes more frequently at night. So, block out negative emotions and comments by relatives as self doubt and anxiety can hinder milk ejection.

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