Why Hospitals Need to Support Breastfeeding Mothers
Those joyous moments when you hold your little one for the first time, and those wondrous eyes make the endless sleepless nights worth it. You might have struggled for weeks or probably a month or two to get the art of breastfeeding right because you know that it is the core of infant nutrition. You think you have crossed it all, and boom! There is a hospital stay, totally unavoidable.
What happens when a new mom needs some surgery and requires a hospital stay?
Does that spell a pause or even end to breastfeeding? The stashes stored in your freezer might meet your baby’s hunger pangs, but what about the bonding that you two shared? How do you maintain your supply? Is pumping emotionally fulfilling as the warmth of having your little one resting on your bosom?
A hospital stay would even mean not such pleasant outcomes like:
· Low milk supply
· Baby rejection if the baby has got used to the bottle
· Depression to the mom, who has worked so hard to make breastfeeding work
A baby who is weaned early is more prone to:
· Obesity later in life
· Respiratory/ear infections
· Higher risk of gastrointestinal infections
· Higher risk of diabetes
Nursing is calming for the mother as well as the baby. The rush of oxytocin, the ‘feel good’ hormone, helps the mother heal faster and naturally reduces her pain.
The baby benefits from a regular dose of natural immunity booster. In fact, several studies indicate the high level of Covid antibodies in breast milk once a mother is infected or vaccinated. The constituents of breastmilk are controlled by the baby’s needs each day. So your little one benefits more from feeding directly from the breast than from stored milk or formula.
Breastfeeding even reduces the mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer later on in life. When there are so many pros to breastfeeding as compared to cons, it is time that hospitals get more baby-friendly.
How can we do this?
· When a nursing parent requires a hospital stay, the hospital should have clear policies to include the nursing infant with the mother.
· Mom and baby stay at the hospital should be made a priority if there aren’t any issues that spell a big ‘NO’ to the arrangement
· The in-patient room should be feeding friendly, including a safe sleeping area for the infant.
· There should be lactation support available on demand. The stress of the hospitalization, medications, and pain can take a toll on breastfeeding. The mom should be given as much support as possible.
For this reason, WHO recommends babies be fed nothing but breast milk for about the first six months and continue breastfeeding for at least one year.
When surgeries and hospitalizations are an unavoidable part of life, hospitals need to understand and support this cause.