Breastfeeding is a mother’s gift to herself; her baby and mother earth says Pamela Wiggins. Breast milk is the best food for a new born baby and it can be provided to the baby in the following ways:
The first and foremost feeding option available to most babies is direct breastfeeding.
Breast milk is custom made for every baby to ensure optimal growth and development. The composition changes as the requirement changes. Therefore, it is also advised that mothers should breastfeed, if possible, even if they are ill or not well. Antibodies from the mother’s body are transferred through breast milk to the baby providing them innate immunity against infections. That is why breast milk is also be said to be the “ideal food” for the baby. Skin to skin contact while breastfeeding also helps in better regulation of temperature, circulation in the baby. Because there is no equipment involved, the whole process becomes hassle free.
Expressed Breast milk
In some situations, mothers may be separated from the babies due to medical reasons. In this situation, expressed breast milk can be offered to the baby. Mothers can express breast milk by using hand expression or by using a breast pump and expressed milk can be fed to the baby using a spoon or a paladai. Expression of milk can also be done to help regulate the supply in the initial days thus helping a baby latch better and make the journey of breastfeeding a little smoother. Later on, as the baby grows, mothers can express and store the breast milk to be used by the baby in their absence. While using this method for feeding the baby, mothers also would have to take care to sanitize the equipment after every use to prevent and reduce any risk of infection.
Donor Human Milk
There may be situations when the mother is critically ill, if she is on any medications where breastfeeding is not recommended or if the mother has passed away. Donor human milk becomes the best choice in this scenario. Donor human milk is way to give human milk to a baby if mother’s own milk is not available. Because it is similar in composition to breast milk, it is easily digestible and has similar benefits to breast milk.
The process of sharing breast milk has been practiced in India since ancient times. However, it may not be always safe, as proper medical history may not be available. This may predispose the baby to develop infections or life-threatening diseases. This could have also been the go-to option as technology was not developed back then. But today, we have the technology to help reduce this risk though screening and pasteurization. Most milk providing facilities screen the donor mother before donation for any infectious diseases and proper medical history is recorded. This makes pasteurized and screened donor human milk the best option when mother’s milk is not available.
Breastfeeding has numerous benefits for the baby. It provides baby the optimal nutrition required for growth and development and promotes healthy weight gain, thereby reducing the chances of baby developing lifestyle diseases in future. Studies show that breastfeeding till the age of 6 months reduces the risk of childhood obesity by 42%. In addition to breastmilk being a critical source of nutrition for baby in the first few months of life, it has also been shown to have long term and significant effects on cognitive, behavioral and mental health in children.
Breastfeeding has lots of benefits for the mother also. It helps the mother beat baby blues and reduce the risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Exclusive breastfeeding also helps mother shed the extra weight gained during pregnancy.
To sum up, direct breastfeeding is the first and foremost option, in case direct feeding is not possible due to any reason, feeding expressed breast milk is preferred. In case, both these options are not available, donor human milk becomes the next best choice.
Breastfeeding provides a healthy, non-polluting, sustainable and natural resource of nutrition and sustenance, thus making it beneficial for mother Earth too.