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Importance Of Counseling On Breastfeeding To Pregnant Women

Breastfeeding has a plethora of health benefits for both, the baby and mother. For many women, breastfeeding is an intimate time with baby, but the benefits go beyond forming an emotional connection. It builds the child’s immune system and keeps allergies, infections such as common cold at bay. Thus, would-be-mothers should be counseled regarding the advantages of breastfeeding.

Mother’s milk is beneficial not only for full-term babies but more so for premature babies admitted in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It not only provides the best nutrition to the child but also has medical benefits. Hence, mothers should ensure that their babies breastfeed from time to time. If you don’t do so then start doing that right away! Breast milk has many health benefits. It carries nutrients, containing all the protein, sugar, and fat that your baby needs to stay in top shape. Moreover, human milk has substances such as antibodies, immune factors, enzymes, and white blood cells. The milk involves substances that are the baby’s first immunization and protect the baby against diseases and infections. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding starting one hour after birth until 6 months of age and continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age.

Dr. Shivani Sabharwal,Gynecologist obstetrician, laparoscopic surgeon, and infertility specialist. Apollo Spectra hospital Delhi, says,"

Why is it important to counsel breastfeeding mothers?

· The infant mortality is high if the infants aren’t breastfed as the risk of infection rises such as pneumonia and diarrhoea. It has the largest impact on any known prevention intervention. Discussion about breastfeeding should be started during the antenatal period when the woman is pregnant and should continue post-delivery also. The importance of exclusive breastfeeding should be discussed with the woman, especially for the first 6 months. But, that doesn’t mean they should stop breastfeeding after 6 months. It should be continued as long as the mother feels so. You have to explain to the mother to continue breastfeeding even when the woman starts working. She should feed more often when she is at home.

· Breastfeeding is basically 3 types- early milk, transitional milk, and mature milk. The early milk is produced in the late stage of pregnancy until 4 days of delivery. And this is the milk rich in antibodies, so we have to stress the importance of this milk. Then comes transitional milk produced on days 4-10. It's low in protein when compared to early milk but is important. Then comes mature milk and continues till the time the mother wants to breastfeed. No matter what, feeding should be done on a daily basis.

· What should be discussed is that she makes enough milk to satisfy the hunger of the baby. Just because the baby is crying that doesn’t mean the woman does not have enough breast milk. Just allow the baby to suck more often. This will allow the mother to produce more milk. Empty the breast completely before you start with the second breast. Empty breast decreases the chances of any infection of breasts.

· When we counsel the mother we tell them that the first 6 months are important and the baby can do extremely well and have a good weight gain if done for 6 months and can continue till 2 years. But after 6 months, add complementary foods such as iron and other micronutrients. Mothers should sleep in close proximity while feeding the baby. Initiate the skin-to-skin contact as soon as the baby is born and the feed should last around 30 minutes. If may vary from one infant to another.

· The baby taking around 8-12 feeds is a good thing. If you can hear swallowing then it is a good thing. Weight gain is also a good sign. Even he sleeps well is a good indicator. 

· We also explain to them that the human milk can be stored till 6-8 hours in the normal room temperature. It can be expressed as well and can be stored up to 24 hours. Family support is needed to express milk.

· We emphasize on the importance of breast milk as it also helps the mother and the child build a stronger bond. Exclusive breastfeeding is like contraception and reduces the chances of pregnancy.

· Understand that breastfeeding doesn’t cost you. It helps the mother’s uterus to contract and reduces the risk of bleeding after birth. So, if the counseling is done properly, then the mothers are more confident and comfortable while feeding. Would-be-moms should be in regular touch with the doctors and must have good family support.

· Breastfeeding has a host of benefits for mothers as it cuts down the risk of osteoporosis, ovarian, and breast cancer, it burns extra calories and helps reduce pregnancy weight. Mothers can also store and donate milk which is a good help to the society".

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