90% city mothers are for breastfeeding, doctors say

They worry when they are not able to meet the requirements of their infant. Doctors say counselling and family support are important

Breastfeeding is important for the infant’s optimal health, cognitive development and bonding with the mother. It helps the mother in uterine contraction and combat diseases like cancer.

Bengaluru’s new mothers are aware of the need for breastfeeding, say doctors. World Breastfeeding Week is observed from August 1 to 7 every year.

Dr Sowmya KN, consultant obstetrics and gynaecologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital, observes that 90 of 100 new mothers in the city are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding.

“Pregnant women above the age of 25 are well-informed about health and pregnancy; more than their counterparts in other cities in the state.”

Mothers are not too worried about what is said of the effect of breastfeeding on the body. “Myths like the contour of the breast will change while breastfeeding is not true,” she says.

Dr Sriprada Vinekar, consultant gynaecologist, Apollo Hospitals, agrees that more than 90 per cent of young mothers in the city are for breastfeeding.

“Some of them are obsessed about doing it; when there is a requirement and they are not able meet it, they feel like a failure. While breastfeeding is beneficial for both the mother and the child, it can be strenuous for the mother as lactation takes time. Latching might not be right in the first few days and mothers need to be mentally prepared for such challenges,” she says. 

Sriprada points out that about 50 per cent of new mothers are not prepared for such challenges. “They should be counselled. There are also families and relatives who emotionally bully the mother which can affect her badly, especially when she would be handling postpartum depression,” she says.

This often leads them to resort to the bottle. 

Most mothers want to breastfeed, either because of encouragement from home or information available on the internet which supports the practice says Dr Anupama Rani, gynaecologist at Bellandur. 

“During the pregnancy, there are sessions about breastfeeding between doctors and would-be mothers. It is a task; one needs to be prepared to feed the child every two hours. This affects sleep patterns,” she says.

In the long run, it is easier to breastfeed. “One doesn’t need to sterilise bottles, and the temperature of the milk is always right, but access to breast milk might not always be there, for example, if the mother resumes work. Thankfully, most organisations give paid maternity leave nowadays,” says Anupama. 

The tale is different for poor women. Dr Parimala V Thirumalesh, consultant – neonatology and pediatrics, Aster CMI Hospital, says poor women believe formula-fed babies are chubbier and surrender to family pressure.

“Early weaning by three months also plays a part in stopping breastfeeding. Urban women find it cumbersome with long shifts at work and strenuous travel time, so they resort to feeding bottles,” she says. 

A lot of effort is involved in breastfeeding, and that is an important factor to consider when making a choice.

“Most mothers go through pain during childbirth. After the initial barrier is crossed with support and help from hospital staff and family, breastfeeding helps establish the bond between a mother and her child,” she adds. 

Survey reveals Only 6 per cent mothers found designated breastfeeding areas

 A survey conducted by Momspresso.com, a website dedicated to young mothers, covered 900 mothers, of whom 77 per cent were millennials (a term used for those born between 1980 and 2000).

The survey, primarily focused on breastfeeding spaces in the country, uncovered a significant gap between the infrastructure and the needs of breastfeeding mothers.

The site reached out to mothers between 25 and 45, where 35 per cent were in the office-going category and 65 per cent were stay-at-home mothers.

The survey revealed that top places where Indian mothers have breastfed their children included their own car (94%), public transport like the metro, bus, train, airplane (83 per cent), restaurants, mall/office car parking (60 per cent) and trial rooms (47 per cent). Indian office-going mothers said they had also breastfed in their office (60 per cent) and in the office car park (47 per cent).

Only 6 per cent of Indian mothers found a designated breastfeeding area to comfortably nurse their children.

About 81 per cent said they felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in public places because of constant staring by passersby, while 53% mothers cited lack of hygienic, appropriate or safe spaces. Lack of privacy hinders 47 per cent comfortable breastfeeding.

Why is breastfeeding important?

“It is especially important for the infant for the first six months. This should be initiated in the first hour (golden hour) of birth. Water, sugary drinks or even honey should be avoided for infants till that period. This is needed for optimal health and building immunity, for cognitive development and bonding with the mother, and helps the child gain proper weight according to the milestones. For the mother, breastfeeding helps to strengthen the bond with her child. Breastfeeding also helps in uterine contraction and will also help her fight diseases like cancer.” 

— Dr Sowmya KN, consultant obstetrics and gynaecologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital

Breaking myths important

“There are various cultural restrictions imposed on mothers like drinking a restricted amount of water or avoiding certain fruits. These should be broken and no diet restrictions should be placed for mothers, as there is no scientific evidence to them.”  

— Dr Anupama Rani, gynaecologist

‘Colostrum is good’ 

“Most people believe that the yellow milk which appears in the first hour of childbirth is stale and unhealthy to be fed to the child. This is not true. This milk, Colostrum, is not only rich in protein and antibodies but also low in carbohydrates and fat, and will help fight infections.”       

— A gynaecologist

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