Breastfeeding is an extremely important and immediate step post-delivery as feeding your baby in the first hour of birth, also known as golden hour, has innumerable health benefits. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years but it has been observed that many mothers shy away from nursing due to many reasons such as lack of awareness and education on the importance of breastfeeding, lack of support in terms of techniques, latching difficulties and positioning.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Mukesh Gupta, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Le Nest Hospital in Mumbai’s Malad, shared, “New mothers often feel that they are unable to produce enough milk for their babies, confidence often becoming a deterrent in newborn feeding. We need laws and policies that can advocate, support and boost breastfeeding and help overcome hurdles and challenges that come in the way. Public awareness campaigns at state level along with encouragement from doctors and medical staff at individual hospital level can help bring about a change. It is high time we normalise breastfeeding.”
According to Dr Mukesh Gupta, while breastfeeding helps in a baby’s transition from the womb to the outside world, your baby will receive immunoglobulins from colostrum, which is a nutrient-filled fluid that comes out before milk is released. He explained, “It builds your baby’s immunity and helps fight diseases and prevents many other health issues that could have impacted in the long run. Once breastfeeding is established, it is important to stay positive and continue to breastfeed every two hours even if you feel that milk production is less or not enough as this process will stimulate the brain to release oxytocin and prolactin, hormones that are responsible for lactation. Another important tip to keep in mind is that the milk ducts are situated around the areola hence the baby has to cover the entire portion while sucking and not the nipple alone. This also prevents nipples from getting sore.”
Dr Ashwini Bhalerao Gandhi, Consultant Gynecologist at PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Center in Mahim said, “As soon as baby latches on the breast and baby starts suckling, the breast starts producing more and more amount of milk. This baby suckling is a strong stimuli for milk production. Production of milk then is a continuous process. The production is way more than the baby’s requirement. Hence, it is always advised to extract the remaining milk from breast either by breast pump or manually. If the remaining milk is not expressed and goes on collecting in both the breasts, breast becomes full, enlarged. The swelling then gives you painful feeling, it becomes tender and also sometimes if it gets infected, it results into abscess.”
She advised, “To avoid the engorgement, first thing you should start is expressing out the remaining milk after each feed with breast massage, hot water fomentation, using proper breast support and maintain hygiene to avoid infection and abscess formation.” She suggested that if the engorgement still happens, then you should follow these steps:
– Try and express the milk, if ducts are not opened up then medications are advised
– If it is too swollen and nipples are flat, take hot fomentation to soften the breasts and then try to express the milk. As you know the initial volume of milk produced is little thicker hence it is very difficult to express it out. So, the hot fomentation helps the milk to flow through the ducts hence softens the breasts.
– After the baby is fed, you should be applying cold compresses which reduces swelling and pain.