Breast Feeding And Milk Banks

Breast milk is also called liquid gold, which is literally “gold” for a baby since it is the most precious lifetime gift. Gold is precious, and so is mom’s milk, hence the comparison. Her milk is full of nutrition and has all the supplements needed to sustain a baby outside the womb. A baby inside the womb has all the warmth and nourishment to survive. But after the child’s birth, the outside environment we provide the baby, along with the equivalent nutrition it receives inside the mother’s womb, is crucial for its survival. 

The “Golden Hour” is considered the most important for every baby. It refers to the first hour after birth when the baby needs feeding via skin-to-skin contact with the mother. The mother’s warmth is crucial to a baby’s survival; hence the term. Once this golden hour crosses, consider the baby survived the critical phase.

After childbirth, a mom’s body naturally tailors to produce milk for the baby. But most people think a mom’s milk is insufficient and must introduce solids early. Even the World Health Organization certifies that a mother must feed a baby for at least two years (a minimum of six months). 

A disclaimer here: The article is not to look down on mothers who are unable to feed their babies or made a choice not to. It is perfectly okay if a mother knows what she is doing and is happy. Breastfeeding alone cannot define motherhood. It is not an easy journey for any mom, so let's create a beautiful, empathetic space for all mothers. 

Not-enough-milk shaming?!

Sadly, there is still a majority of people who still do not give much importance to a mother’s milk in our country. They underestimate the power of breastmilk and often shame a mom for not producing enough milk and introducing the formula early. So, how do people conclude that a mother’s milk is not enough? A child crying. Each cry need not be for milk. There may be myriad reasons like distress, anxiety, sadness, or simply wanting to be comforted. More often than not, a mother gets blamed for producing less milk and hence enters the hero: the formula. Most families fail to understand that a newborn’s tummy is as big as the human fist; consequently, the body only makes the milk needed at that stage; since the stomach is still small and growing, the need to feed frequently. As the baby grows, the supply increases as the mother keep providing. Unless a medical complication and a mom cannot generate enough milk naturally, no good pediatrician will prescribe the formula. So, mothers under pressure from families about your supply, please consult a lactation consultant near you and get the needed counseling. Breastfeeding is all about demand and supply. So, a growing baby will feed continuously or frequently. 

World Breastfeeding Week & Nursing in public

We all know about the importance and benefits of breastfeeding. The World Breastfeeding Week is observed every year between August 1-7. Networks across the globe celebrate the week through various awareness events, workshops, and sessions for parents and families. In the last few years, another movement has caught momentum – Nurse in public. Many mothers do not feel free to feed their babies in public spaces for fear of being looked down. This movement has also encouraged more mothers to start feeding their babies outside their homes. Breastfeeding needn’t mean staying indoors 24×7. Moms can move freely and travel comfortably (and lighter too). All they need is suitable clothing and covers to use in public spaces to feed. Normalizing breastfeeding in public is the aim, so mothers don’t get uncomfortable stares. Even be confined to closed rooms or smelly washrooms. There are visible changes everywhere – commercial spaces have designated corners/clean feeding rooms for mothers who want to feed babies or change diapers.

My Journey

I am completing eight years of motherhood with my son, and I feel blessed I could feed my baby for 4.8 years till he self-weaned. At the same time, I have had friends whose babies have self-weaned early or chosen to wean them. It always is the mother’s choice to do this. Every mom has the right to do so. It is perfectly okay if a mom doesn’t want to breastfeed her baby or continue to feed beyond the minimum time certified by the WHO. No mother should be looked down upon for her choices during her motherhood journey. Her options are not to be used as labels for whatever she chooses for herself and her baby. We do not know why or under what circumstances she chooses an unavoidable decision, so we have no right to judge her motherhood journey either. 

For mothers who cannot feed and still want their babies to receive human milk, it is possible to do so through human milk banks. There are Milk Banks at select government hospitals and a few private entities in some cities. These initiatives are a lifesaver even for infants who have lost their mothers. 

History of Human Milk Banks

The first human milk bank was established in Mumbai in 1989 in the Lokmanya Tilak municipal medical college. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), USA, in its study on comprehensive lactation management systems in India, formed 22 human milk banks 22 between 2005 and 2015. By 2021, 90 human milk banks should have been established. Mothers can now access human milk at no cost, thanks to initiatives like these. They have to approach the milk bank and tell their requirement. It is thanks to mothers willing to donate their milk to these milk banks. 

Indeed, a golden era for breastfeeding; many babies have survived the crucial phases of their survival thanks to the human milk banks. A prayer to all those mothers who have donated their milk to these tiny souls. 

Follow Priya Rajendran

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