Mothers milk and touch best for infants health

Becoming a mother can be both exhilarating and daunting Not just first time mothers but even those who have experienced the joy of motherhood earlier can go through a period of selfdoubt wondering whether she is doing the right thing to keep her newborn safe

Doctors say two simple interventions exclusive breastfeeding and maximum skintoskin contact have been found to pass dramatic health benefits from a mother to her newborn child

An estimated 25 crore neonates are born in the country every year 30 of which are preterm between 28 to 30 weeks or of very low birth weight VLBW making them highly sensitive to temperature fluctuations and infections and thus demanding extracare

Breast milk is packed with nutrients vitamins and minerals and carries antibodies from the mother to help the baby combat lifethreatening disease Docosahexaenoic acid DHA and arachidonic acid AA are key fatty acids needed for the growth of the human brain Human milk contains 30 times more DHA than cows milk

Dr Anupam Sibal paediatrician Apollo Hospital said human milk is rich in choline taurine and zinc which are highly beneficial for brain growth Human milk contains almost double the quantity of lactose compared with milk of other mammals

Indias health ministry recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life It says breastfeeding should begin within an hour of birth and should be on demand as often as the child wants day and night However less than 50 of mothers in India follow this rule

Dr Anjali Saxena pediatrician Max Hospital says breast milk is tailormade for the human baby

Besides protection from infections and better brain nutrition exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months also protects from development of certain allergies

Even in the upper socioeconomic class we often see the failure to establish early breastfeeding The mothertobe has to be prepared to initiate breastfeeding during pregnancy In fact the baby can be put to breast as soon as the placenta comes out right in the labour room itself in case of a normal delivery This helps the mother as well as suckling stimulates uterine contractions

In case of caesareans breastfeeding should be initiated as soon as possible and good pain management and motivational counselling can contribute towards it a great deal Dr Saxena said

A recent Lancet study said annually two million Indian children die before their fifth birthday

The Lancet Child Survival analysis estimated that optimal breastfeeding can prevent almost 20 of infant deaths in India Unfortunately of the 26 million Indian women who give birth every year about 20 million do not follow optimal breastfeeding practices till the time the infant is six months old

Meanwhile skintoskin contact and kangaroo mother care KMC also works like magic for all new borns

Babies receiving KMC have more regular breathing and less predisposition to apnea KMC also protects against nosocomial infections

Dr Vinod Paul HOD paediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences says early and exclusive breastfeeding is the single most important intervention to protect a new born child

He said Skintoskin contact soon after birth in is now a standard of care It should be done in all cases irrespective of whether the baby is small or big immediately after birth This promotes early initiation and successful breastfeeding provides warmth to the baby and also helps in psychosocial bonding with the mother

KMC on the other hand is a sustained skintoskin contact of the baby and the mother for prolonged periods of time if possible for 24 hours This is a simple life saving intervention that does not require technology or costs money

Experts say KMC helps maintain the babys normal body temperature better than in an incubator It also helps maintain his heart rate respiratory rate and a normal blood pressure Babies experiencing prolonged skintoskin contact with mother or father are also less likely to cry They are more likely to breastfeed exclusively and longer and will indicate to their mother when they are ready to feed

Interestingly KMC does not just help infants but also the mothers Mothers are less stressed during kangaroo care as compared with a baby kept in incubator

Doctors say most mothers prefer skintoskin contact to conventional care as it leads to stronger bonding with the baby increased confidence and a deep satisfaction of doing something special

Paediatricians say when a baby comes out of the womb which has been its natural habitat it is under significant stress There are now a multitude of studies that show that mothers and babies should be together skintoskin baby naked not wrapped in a blanket immediately after birth as well as later The baby is happier this way

A baby not in close contact with his mother by distance under a heat lamp or in an incubator or swaddled in a blanket may become too sleepy or lethargic

Dr Sibal said With skintoskin contact the mother and the baby exchange sensory information that stimulates and elicits baby behaviour searching for the breast staying calm breathing more naturally staying warm maintaining his body temperature and maintaining his blood sugar

Babies who are kept skintoskin with the mother immediately after birth for at least an hour are more likely to latch on well without any help

He addedA pregnant woman should go through good antenatal care as then she is more likely to produce a healthy baby with adequate weight A woman should ensure she delivers in a hospital Even now a lot of deliveries in semiurban areas are taking place at home It is important a woman starts to motivate herself about breastfeeding and ask her gynaecologist how she should condition for it Breastfeeding is the best start to every baby life

Breastfed babies have been found to have at least eight points higher intelligence quotient in later life as compared to formula fed babies

Date : 14 May, 2012
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