World Breastfeeding Week is observed every year from the 1st to the 7th of August in more than 120 countries. It aims at promoting breastfeeding especially during the first six months of life to provide all the nutrition that a baby requires.

Nursing or breastfeeding plays a vital role in creating a bond between the mother and the baby. Breastmilk helps the baby resist infections and also develop the organs of the body. It mainly contains water, lactose, proteins, fatty acids, enzymes, vitamins and minerals.

Newborn babies can be breastfed within an hour after birth. The first form of milk secreted from the breasts is called colostrum. It is thick and can be yellow in colour. It is rich in protein and antibodies which help fight infection. Mature breast milk starts to come in 3-4 days post-delivery. While nursing, a mother needs to be comfortable and position her baby correctly to ensure the baby gets most of the milk.

World Health Organization (WHO) recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding, and it can be continued for two years or more, complemented with formulas or homemade foods.

Unfortunately, nearly half of the infants in India don’t have the privilege of being exclusively breastfed. Various factors contribute to this scenario; usage of formula as a substitute, lack of awareness of the significance of breastfeeding, ailing lactating mother, or insufficient milk production in the mother.

With the rise in Cesarean section deliveries in India, there is a decline in the number of infants being breastfed soon after birth. A C-section delivery generally causes a delay in the production of breast milk when compared to a vaginal delivery. This may lead to providing the baby with formula milk until the mother can nurse the baby.

In the year 2016, 6 lakh neonatal deaths were reported in India. Breastfeeding can prevent 20% of the neonatal deaths. Consumption of medicines/ recreational drugs/ alcohol by a lactating mother may affect the well-being of the baby. It depends on the properties of the drug, the quantity of the drug present in the breast milk and how it enters the breast milk from the blood plasma. Hence, it is essential for the mother to consult a doctor before consuming drugs of any kind that get excreted in the breast milk.

It will help significantly if all maternity hospitals educate a new mother and the family about the importance of breastfeeding and sensitize them to the dos and don’ts.

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