Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

By Dr Gayatri Deshpande

Children benefit most from breastfeeding within the first hour of birth or the ‘Golden Hour.’ Breast milk is an ideal first feed because it provides lifelong immunity against diseases, and boosts growth and tissue repair factors within the first hour after birth. UNICEF and WHO launched the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in 1991, which promotes policies that support, protect, and promote breastfeeding in hospitals all over the world.  

However, adopting a child shouldn’t pose a unique challenge in terms of offering adequate nutrition to the baby. In today’s time and age, a number of alternative methods and practices are in place to offer the babies if not the same, but similar nutrition and immunity to babies, in absence of natural breastfeeding.  

Why is it important:  

The first milk of the mother, known as ‘colostrum,’ provides the child with IgA antibodies that prevent them from infections. The milk is also rich in Vitamin D, which is essential for the absorption of calcium and the prevention of rickets (skeletal disorder) in children. Most importantly, skin-to-skin contact prevents the child from hyperthermia and increases bonding between the mother and child. 

Early breastfeeding initiation (breastfeeding initiation within the first hour of birth) and exclusive breastfeeding (giving the child only breast milk exclusively for the first six months) remain the major focus for families with recent childbirths.  

Alternative Methods:  

a) Induced Lactation: Milk production is induced naturally in pregnant women due to hormonal changes. But the same hormone response can be artificially induced in adoptive mothers using medication, diet, and exercise. Consult your lactation expert and gynaecologist for the same. However, mothers of adopted babies are less likely to develop colostrum or natural milk as their body doesn’t undergo natural hormonal changes. Hence these mothers will need the assistance of formula milk or milk from a milk bank. 

b) Milk Banks: India’s first milk bank was set up in Mumbai in 1989 and since then, the milk banks have played a vital role in providing milk to pre-term and other newborn babies who cannot avail of natural mothers’ milk.

c) Formula: Being the closest artificial nourishment to the mother’s milk, formula milk does offer adequate immunity and nutrition to the babies. Moreover, with recent advancements, scientists are able to identify, isolate and use specific compounds and ingredients to augment the efficiency of formula milk.

d) Supplemental Nutritional System or SNS: If the induced breast milk supply is not sufficient, SNS devices can be used to offer the necessary quantity of milk and nutrition to the babies. In this, the infant is fed expressed or formula milk via small tubes, attached to a larger syringe, carried by the mother as it latches on the breast. This helps stimulate the breast and also addresses the lack of supply or nutrition.

(Disclaimer: Dr Gayatri Deshpande is a senior consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Zee News)

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