This is tailor made for the baby by each mother. It contains the antibodies to almost all infections the mother had been exposed to during her life. It is a good source of proteins and has epidermal growth factors which help in the growth of the gastrointestinal mucous membrane and thus resist infection when exposed to new challenges while licking the various stuff from the environment.
Most babies sleep during the first few days when they are just fed with the few ml of colostrum. Some babies may ask for more. The only solution to this demand is frequent sucking from the breast. Even though the secretions are limited to a few ml, it is sufficient for the baby to sleep for the next few hours as the glycogen stores do provide the additional needs.
A hungry baby cannot sleep unless fed adequately. Most first time mothers are aware of feeding the baby at regular intervals but get exasperated in the first few days of childbirth when they understand that the baby cannot sleep if they are hungry.
Many mothers have complained that they are not able to sleep because they have to feed the baby during the nights. It is essential to understand at this stage that the babies are not aware of a day – night rhythm until 4 to 6 months of life.
Babies have a rhythm that is dependent on the hunger – elimination cycle. Some babies have a periodicity of 3 hours if the mothers are lucky but most babies have a 2 hour cycle. It is a very clear hunger induced cry followed by feeding which makes the baby pass urine and / or motion and then sleep for a few minutes only to wake up for the next feed.
For a mother who is recouping herself from the ordeal of pregnancy and childbirth lack of uninterrupted sleep can be very tiring. It is essential that the mother is available for feeding the baby as and when necessary leaving the other aspects of childcare to others in the initial days of motherhood. With time the pattern is established and the mother also learns to take rest when the baby is resting.
Curtailing the number of phone calls, restricting the visitors, are some of the actions that can be taken to enjoy the breastfeeding in total.
Resorting to expressing the breast milk into a feeding bottle to enable uninterrupted sleep is being practiced by some mothers. This is bound to bring on nipple confusion and also reduce the milk supply in due course of time because of the absence of direct sucking as the stimulus.
Some mothers are falling on supplementing with formula feeds when their sleep needs take an upper hand. This again is bound to lead to nipple confusion as it is always easier for a baby to suck from the bottle than from the mother. Milk supply from the mother would reduce as the milk supply is always dependent on the demand!
One of the mothers complained that she feels like a cow as she has been only producing milk for the baby and has not been able to utilize her education in any way. It is a privilege to breast feed the baby; to understand that the growth of the baby is only due to the milk that has been produced by us gives the sense of well-being and satisfaction that we have been responsible for the day to day changes that take place in the baby.
It is definitely difficult to land in a job which is going to match this activity with respect to job satisfaction. Another mother came in crying saying that she did not know that childcare was so demanding. If only she had known she would not have got married!
Where is the problem? Are current mothers not exposed to seeing small babies in their neighborhoods? Are current mothers the progeny of parents who have motivated them towards excellence in education forgetting other aspects of growth and development? Are current mothers thoroughly confused about their identity between mother hood and that of a career woman? Are current mothers not aware of the personal benefits of breastfeeding?
Dr S Yamuna is a Paediatrician and Adolescent Physician based in Chennai. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org