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Friday, August 5, 2011

HEALTH & INFANTS: Nature knows best!

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Subha J. Rao, The Hindu / COIMBATORE, August 5, 2011.

A new bond: Nurture it Photo: K.V. Srinivasan
A new bond: Nurture it Photo: K.V. Srinivasan.

Yet another World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 to 7) is here, and the spotlight is back on mother-child bonding

It's called Nature's own power food for infants. Sadly, some don't get to utilise its benefits due to ignorance and mis-information. Add to it the growing number of working moms and the lack of time to feed children. Doctors are unanimous this has to change. “We must recommend and ensure that kids are exclusively breastfed for the first six months,” says Angeline Prema, consultant paediatrician. “We must reject pre-lacteal foods and make sure that kids are fed during the golden period — half an hour after birth — even if the mother has undergone a Caesarean section,” she adds.

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Gita Arjun, director, E.V. Kalyani Medical Centre, Chennai, says breast milk is perfectly formulated by Nature to provide the newborn with the correct balance of nutrients and immunity-producing substances. “Other foods can be introduced slowly after six months, if the mother has to get back to work,” she adds.

Though doctors are unanimous about the benefits of breastfeeding, getting people to understand and accept that is a huge problem, rues Dr. Prema. “Medical and para-medical staff must work in tandem to ensure WHO guidelines are met. The temptation to feed the baby something other than mother's milk must go. Show me one other mammal that looks for an alternative milk source for its little ones?” As for the common excuse that “there's not enough milk”, all Dr. Prema says is that when the baby and mother are together 24 hours a day, it automatically promotes lactation.

Busting myths

Among the many myths that Nandhini Kumaran, consultant paediatrician and president, Indian Academy of Paediatrics, Coimbatore chapter, regularly gets to hear relate to the mother's diet. “She's mostly starved of protein (dals) and iron (greens). Where will the nourishment come from? Instead, she is forced to drink a litre or more of milk. Not only is it unnecessary, it also leads to digestion-related problems,” she says.

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