Being a woman and a mother, breast feeding my baby has been THE most fulfilling experience of my life. It beats everything...cracking the toughest of exams, performing life-saving surgeries, surpassing the highest highs and overcoming the lowest lows of life… It's just incredible, the experience of being able to nourish a life... And that too, the life you hold dearer than your own!
Women nourish the baby inside of them with their blood every single minute of the nine months during pregnancy, but that is invisible and happening involuntarily. Breast feeding is voluntary, visible and purely magical! Doctors recommend 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. So all the growth, and it is huge, that you see in your little wonder at this time is through you!
As an obstetrician and gynaecologist, I feel really strongly about this miracle of life. I would urge our community and every family to take utmost care of our women during this precious time.
Give a new mother ample rest. Physically, mentally, emotionally. Give her space and time so she's relaxed and comfortable and can perform this job that nobody else can do. Stress, whether physical, emotional or mental affects milk production and the health of the baby directly.
A nursing mother needs about 550 extra calories over and above her daily needs. She should have a balanced diet inclusive of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and plenty of fluids.
Especially in India, there is a myth that gynaecologists come across often - that water is bad for a nursing mother. I have had so many families in my practice who argue that water dilutes milk and also contributes to a lax tummy post-delivery. It's as far from the truth as can be. Adequate hydration is absolutely essential for milk production, besides guarding against diseases like urinary infections which can be dangerous post delivery.
4. Start early
The baby needs to be put to the breast as soon after delivery as possible, preferably within 1 hour! The baby and the mum, both need to learn the art of breast feeding. This early suckling is what promotes milk production and ensures the baby gets the all important 'colostrum'. The thick yellowish discharge in the first days after birth is supremely nutritious besides providing the baby protection from diseases such as diarrhoea. So much so, it is hailed as the baby's first immunisation!! Don't deny this elixir to the baby. Yes, the whole family is excited to hold the newborn. Also, the doctors want to weigh the baby and do their numerous checks to ensure a healthy baby but as far as possible, the newborn baby should be close to the mother and she should be supported in this endeavour. The mother infant bonding at this time goes a long way in ensuring a healthy baby, physically and emotionally!
5. Seek help
If there is anything worrisome regarding the new mother like fever, persistent low mood or anxiety, inability to breastfeed despite trying, painful or swollen breasts, excessive blood loss, tiredness, breathing difficulty, swelling in legs etc., seek help urgently. She needs to see a gynaecologist as soon as possible.
Happy breastfeeding to you!