Concept of Brest Feeding In South Asia And Its Advantages

Afza.Malik GDA

What is Breast Feeding, Its Benefits and Recommendations

Concept of Brest Feeding In South Asia And Its Advantages

 Breast Feeding South Asia  Counseling About Breast Feeding Duration For The Male And Female Baby And Social Terms Why Breast Feeding Preferred ? Mother Satisfaction About Breast Feeding Or Bottle Feeding. 

Breast Feeding South Asia

    It is a common belief that nearly all women in South Asia breastfeed their babies.This belief is by and large true, but the essence of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for six months is achieved in very few mothers.

     Of course till recently there has been a great deal of confusion regarding the optimum duration for exclusive breastfeeding and the advice has varied from 3 months to 4-6 months to more definite recent WHO/ UNICEF resolution adopted at the World Health Assembly in 2002, finally opting for 6 months as per the recommended period for exclusive breastfeeding. 

    This means that the babies should be given no other liquid or solids other than breast milk, not even water, during this period.

    Prior to this, there was a divergence of opinion among various organizations, including WHO and UNICEF regarding the optimum time for exclusive breastfeeding. It varied between four months and six months. This divergence of opinion left room for confusion as regards mothers and the health professionals and was taken advantage of by the food industry, which produces various kinds of infant foods.

    In South Asia, according to the countrywide data of the National Family Health Survey 1998-99 (NFHS-2), only 55 percent of children at two months of age are exclusively breastfeed, 23 percent receive breast milk plus water and 20 percent receive supplements along with breast milk. Only 24 percent put the baby to breast within half an hour after birth and another 20 percent only after 24 hours.

     A large number squeezed the first milk thinking it to be dirty (looking like pus because it is yellowish). The percentage of children exclusively breastfed drops steadily from 72 percent for children under one month of age to about 20 percent who are six months old, the period during which exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by WHO and UNICEF. 

    The proportion of children receiving breast milk and supplements increases from 10 percent for children in the first month of life 81 percent for children age 12 months and declines thereafter as 2 large number of children are weaned off the breast. However, breast feeding generally continues even into the second year for a considerable number of children. 

    Ninety-two percent babies are still being breastfed at 12 months and 59 percent even at 2 years. Often the mother takes the child off the breast if she realizes she is pregnant. There is a common belief that breastfeeding during pregnancy would cause harm to the growing fetus which is not true.

 Counseling About Breast Feeding 

    Motivation regarding breastfeeding should start during pregnancy and any doubts cleared. The problems regarding breast size, shape of the ripple and its protrusion or otherwise have been exaggerated. All health workers should have the necessary knowledge to be able to help these women.

Duration For The Male And Female Baby And Social Terms 

    The mean duration of breastfeeding is two months shorter for girls than for boys. This is because of a strong preference for sons by a vast majority, hoping that cessation of breastfeeding will hasten the next. pregnancy and hoping that it would be a male child. The median length of breastfeeding is five months longer in rural areas than in urban areas. 

    Most mothers in rural areas continue to breastfeed for more than two years, while in urban areas it is much shorter. Children who are born at home tend to be breastfed for several more months than children who are born in health facilities. This is due probably to adhering to traditional practices in the case of home delivery as well as to a paucity of any advice and education regarding breastfeeding in the case of deliveries in the health facilities.

Why Breast Feeding Preferred ?

    The reasons for giving up breastfeeding and shifting to the bottle are usually based on wrong premises and lack of understanding of the advantages of breastfeeding. Women usually give various reasons for discontinuing breastfeeding too early, "I did not have enough milk", "the baby was not interested and refused to suck", "I have to go back to work and I might as well wean the baby off the breast"

    The truth is that in most cases these mothers do not lack breast milk, they lack confidence and knowledge about breastfeeding, and the pressure of circumstances.

Mother Satisfaction About Breast Feeding Or Bottle Feeding 

    To breastfeed successfully, a woman must feel confident that she can do it. However, she needs advice and support of those around her who have successfully breastfed their children. A supporting husband and mother-in-law is a great asset.

    It is important that health workers with whom the young mother comes into contact, have adequate knowledge about breastfeeding and its advantages and are in a position to advise her and help her to overcome her doubts and problems. 

    Unfortunately the knowledge of most health workers including doctors is very elementary or non-existent and they taken the easy way out and advice bottle feeding. Most of them or their wives have probably not breastfed their own children except for a month or two.

    Offering the child water too is common because of the belief that in hot weather, babies feel thirsty just like older children and adults and water. This belief is erroneous as breast milk has enough water to satisfy the baby's need for water and additional water is not necessary.

Health Advantages of Breastfeeding

    1. It is the simplest way to feed the baby. Warm, bacteria-free milk is available at all times, and the mother need not be worried about how much milk the baby is getting as long as the baby is happy and gaining weight.

    2. Breast milk costs nothing. This is not strictly true if one takes into account the cost of extra food the lactating mother requires and should have, but is certainly much cheaper than substitutes. It is estimated that the cost of artificial feeding may be as much as one-third of the total family income in a poor family. The extra food will also help improve the mother's nutritional status.

    3. The mother has a feeling of satisfaction and achievement and psychologically it makes her as well as her baby happier. She hugs and cuddles her baby several times a day while feeding and gets to know her baby better. This in turn results in better lactation. Very often the breast starts dripping with milk when the mother holds the baby, a sign of mental and emotional stimulation transmitted to the breast. 

    4. The baby is able to recognize and respond to the mother from birth using her sense of smell. The early postpartum period has been recognized as a particularly sensitive period for bonding. This is facilitated by repeated skin contact, which is an integral part of breastfeeding. 

    Breastfeeding increases the mother-baby interaction in many diverse ways. Mother’s touch, humming and endearing sounds while breastfeeding contribute to a baby's development. Some studies have shown a positive effect on intelligence and cognitive scores with breastfeeding.

    5. Breastfeeding increases the period of lactation amenorrhea after childbirth, because the milk-producing hormone, prolactin helps to stop the ovaries from releasing eggs which helps to postpone the next pregnancy

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