Mother’s Milk Is The Best Milk

Exclusive breast feeding implies the concept of feeding the child only with mother's milk from first hour of birth up to a minimum of six months, without any other supplement like water, honey or any top feed. During the initial post natal phase, breast milk is in the form of colostrums which has antibiotic like properties and lactoferins, which give the child an integral immunity against various diseases, including pneumonia. Breast milk is also rich in proteins, has enzymatic activity that prevents the growth of bacteria and viruses, and fulfils all the nutritional requirements of the new born for the first six months.

Since, pneumonia is mostly caused by bacteria and viruses, so breast milk reduces their risk in many ways by affecting their viability. Moreover, breast milk also plays an important role in providing respiratory and gut immunity, thus preventing pneumonia in a big way. It helps to develop resistance in the respiratory tract (lungs) which is the main affected organ in pneumonia.

Dr.Jyotsna Mehta a Gynaecologist & Obstetrician who runs a private nursing home extols the virtues of mother’s milk, as well as the importance of breast feeding the baby soon after birth. She says that," We put the baby to the breast of the mother as soon as she is born. If it is a normal delivery then it is done in the labor room and if it is a caesarian then after the operation we go ahead and let the mother breast feed the baby even before shifting the mother out of the theatre."

The children who are not at all breast fed essentially during first six month of life are five times more susceptible to pneumonia which is the single biggest killer of children under five, than those who are breast fed.  Sub-optimal breast feeding is a factor in 44% of all Acute Respiratory Infection deaths among infants. Globally, 62% of the children are not exclusively breast fed. There are innumerable myths about breast feeding which need to be dispelled. Suckling of milk does not deform the shape of the breast. Rather, breast feeding increases the involution of uterus. It brings the mother back to her normal physical shape much faster, than if she does not breast feed the child.
According to Dr. Vijaya Mohan, a Paediatrician  at Vivekanand Hospital, Lucknow, “There are some instances of people who feel that mother's milk is not a sufficient diet for the  baby and he should be fed with top feeds in order to provide complete nourishment. But this is a misconception. The doctors should counsel the mother to allay these fears.” According to Dr. Y.C. Govil, Professor of Paediatrics in Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University, (erstwhile King George’s Medical College), "Bottle feeds and formula milk, certainly cannot be a replacement for breast milk, because no human endeavor can put those factors which the almighty has done. They may be sufficient in terms of nutritive value to some extent, but there are many other benefits of mother’s milk which the formula food cannot meet. Maternal and infant bonding cannot be provided by these foods. A lot of research has been done which has ultimately proved that Breast milk is the best milk.”

Lack of education and awareness among the masses prevents many mothers from exclusively breast feeding their baby. In some cases the mother herself is underfed which engenders milk production in her, while in other cases the mother is not aware of the benefits of breast feed. Breast feeding is fuelled by traditional norms, and the misplaced desire on part of the mother to feed the child well. And if the mother is a working woman, she may resort to top feeds for her convenience.

Awareness and education about exclusive breast feeding is the need of the hour. We should promote breast feeding and good nutrition for women in both rural and urban areas. There should be provision of flexi hours for working mothers. They should be made aware of the utility of breast pumps. Breast milk is the child's natural immunity and he should not be deprived of it. So let all women promote it, as it has many pros and no cons.          

Shikha Srivastava - CNS