“We counsel and prepare the woman on exclusive breastfeeding when she registers herself for antenatal care. At the time of birth and during postnatal care too healthcare workers make an extra effort in stressing benefits of breastfeeding. Most mothers are comfortable in breastfeeding their child however in some cases mothers aren’t in a position to breastfeed and incidence of childhood pneumonia, diarrhoea, malnutrition and other associated health problems is higher in such children who aren’t breastfed” said Dr Verma.
“We don’t advise feeding children with bottles. When children require additional nutrition then we recommend home-made food only and mother’s milk is the best food for the baby, especially for first six months. Milk other than mother’s milk doesn’t have enough nutritional value for human being’s baby that is why we make all efforts to ensure that the mothers breastfeed their children” said Dr Verma.
“When the child is born then they don’t have a strong immunity to fight diseases. That is why children are unable to defend themselves from infections. But if the child is breastfeeding then she or he gets enough antibodies that help fight the infections and build body’s own defence mechanism (immunity) against such diseases. Children who get exclusive breastfeeding are likely to be protected from conditions such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, common cold, diarrhoea, among others. That is why we encourage the mothers to exclusively breastfeed their child for first six months at least” said Dr Rama Shankhdhar, senior Gynaecologist and Obstetrician in Indira Nagar, Lucknow.
Dr RS Dubey, Chief Medical Superintendent (CMS) of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Gomti Nagar, Lucknow also supported that children after birth should be exclusive breastfed for first six months. “When mothers try to feed the child using a spoon milk at times goes into the respiratory tract (instead of food pipe) of the child. Mothers should raise the head of the child while breastfeeding because then the risk of milk going into the respiratory tract is low. Children should be breastfed for first 6-12 months. This will also prevent the child from infections. That is why mothers of children born in our hospital are counselled and encouraged to exclusively breastfeed their child for first six months” said Dr Dubey.
A child who was born in Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital to parents who live in Ismailganj slums (behind this hospital) provides a reality check. The mother (Rekha) of this pneumonia-stricken child (Tulsi) said that she was not counselled or given information about breastfeeding. However as per the tradition she did breastfeed the child. Despite breastfeeding her child developed pneumonia. From the same slums we also spoke to three more mothers with pneumonia infected children (Jyoti, Yasmeen and Fareed) who had breastfed their children but still their children developed pneumonia. Upon closer review, there are other risk factors in the slums that increase the risk of pneumonia for children such as exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke, smoke from cook stoves, malnutrition, among others.
Mother’s milk gets easily digested by the child. So breastfed children are less at risk of facing indigestion or diarrhoea as risk of infection is low too. A child till six months of age is not required to take any other food except mother’s milk as it contains all required nutrition.
Nadeem Salmani - CNS