Helpful Guidelines on Breastfeeding and Complementary Feeding for New Moms

Breastfeeding is the natural way of building a close connection between mother and baby. Across the globe, doctors recommend that every mother exclusively breastfeed her baby for the first six months because it guarantees the healthiest starting point in nutrition, growth, and wellness. And beyond six months, the baby should eat healthy and nutritious complementary food that matches their growing dietary needs.

Here, we answer some common queries posed by moms-to-be and new moms to help them navigate unexplored areas of motherhood and parenting.

When should I start breastfeeding?

Early breastfeeding is crucial for giving your baby “colostrum,” or the mother’s first milk. Breastfeeding should be started as soon as possible, preferably within 30 minutes of birth. In the case of cesarean delivery, mothers can begin nursing within 4 hours. It is very important not to feed anything else to the baby, like honey etc., at birth.

What is Colostrum? Is it good for my baby?

Colostrum is the term used for the milk released in the first few days following childbirth. It is yellowish, thick, and sticky. This is also called ‘golden milk’ as high antibodies in the colostrum protect your child against many infective diseases.

What is Exclusive breastfeeding?

Exclusive breastfeeding means that babies receive only breast milk and nothing else. 

During the first six months of a baby’s life, they do not need any extra food or fluids, such as herbal water, glucose water, fruit drinks, honey or water. Even in a tropical country like India, milk is sufficient to satisfy a baby’s requirement for water.

What will happen if I don’t exclusively breastfeed my child for the first six months?

During the first six months, adding food items like milk powder, solid food, or water can cause infectious diseases to the baby like life-threatening diarrhea, dehydration, and stunted growth, apart from various nutrient deficiencies.

It will also decrease milk production since the baby will suckle less.

What are the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding?

Researchers have acknowledged the extraordinary benefits of breast milk. 

  • Breast milk is easy to digest – The high solubility of milk makes it easier for a newborn to digest and absorb. In addition, it also contains lactose that offers immediate energy and transforms into lactic acid in the intestines, which eliminates harmful bacteria and helps absorb calcium and other minerals.
  • Breast milk safeguards the baby from diseases – Exclusive breastfeeding prevents infectious diseases and nutrient deficiencies in the baby. Also, since breast milk is a very good source of iron, it helps prevent childhood diseases like anemia.
  • Breastfed babies tend to be smarter than non-breastfed babies – Research has shown that increased IQs and improved visual acuity are results of special fatty acids found in breast milk. A breastfed baby is likely to have an IQ of 8 points higher than someone who has not received nursing.
  • Breastfeeding is a significant part of the reproductive process and affects the health of moms – Early breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk for excessive postpartum weight gain, anemia, and bleeding. It also strengthens the immune system, postpones the next pregnancy, and lowers insulin levels in diabetic mothers.

When should I start Complementary Feeding?

Complementary feeding supplements breast milk. At six months of age, parents should introduce complementary feeding to satisfy the growing needs of the developing baby while still continuing breastfeeding.

In the first two years of life, your baby’s brain and nervous system rapidly evolve and mature. Hence, there is a higher demand for a consistent good nutrition supply to accomplish optimum growth and development.

What should be the first complementary food for my baby?

  • Along with breastfeeding, from the age of six months, a baby needs foods, including milk products, cereals, pulses, vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables), fruits, oil/ghee, sugar, and salt.
  • You can combine roasted flour from any cereal with boiled water, sugar, and a little oil/ghee.
  • You can also prepare porridge by mixing suji (semolina), broken wheat, atta (wheat flour), rice, ragi, and millet with water or milk. For the first few days, you should prepare thinner porridge.
  • It’s crucial to use ghee or oil, sugar, or jaggery because it increases the food’s calories, making them energy dense.
  • You can soak half-chapati pieces in a cup of milk or hot water, mash the mixture, and add sugar and ghee/oil. This preparation acts as a good substitute for porridge.
  • Beyond six months, you can also give mashed versions of soft fruits, including bananas, papayas, cheeku, and mangos.
  • Once the child has mastered eating cereal porridge, you can serve mixed dishes with cooked cereal, pulses, and vegetables.
  • You can also give traditional Indian baby foods like khichdi, Dalia, suji kheer, upma, idli, dhokla, etc.

As a new mom, you often push yourself to accomplish everything. And uneasiness follows whenever you have setbacks. That’s when you should understand that parenting has been a challenge for mothers throughout history. There have been those before you, and more will follow. Take the time to cherish these times because your child will grow up in a blink of an eye.

If you experience difficulty during breastfeeding, don’t delay consulting your doctor. Receiving the proper medical counseling and care is the only way to resolve any challenges related to breastfeeding, complementary feeding, and child nutrition.

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