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Colostrum and Other Breastfeeding Basics New Mums Need To Know

Colostrum is nutrient-dense, antibody-rich, yellow coloured mother’s milk which is released right after delivery.

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Health News
3 min read
Colostrum and Other Breastfeeding Basics New Mums Need To Know
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(World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from 1st-7th August every year to encourage new mothers to breastfeed their children and increase awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. FIT is republishing this story from the archives.)

Snapshot
  • More than 45% newborns are not breastfed within the first hour in various Indian states: National Family Health Survey (2015-16)

  • Newborns who are not fed mother’s colostrum in the first hour have an 80% higher risk of death as compared to those who are.

  • Colostrum: nutrient-dense, antibody-rich, yellow coloured mother’s milk which is released right after delivery. It protects newborns from diarrhoea and respiratory illnesses.

Let’s put ourselves in the skin of a newborn. Just for a minute, because what happens in the first hour of birth is critical for her survival.

When a child is born, she loses all she knew about life – except her mother’s heartbeat, the comfort of her skin – the smell of that so familiar – and the amniotic fluid which she can still feel on her hands, till they take her. And wash it away. An extreme and irreverent act of severance – most often just for the superficial and unimportant urge to weigh, measure, check, sanitise, and dress.

Sadly, a lot of private hospitals these days come out with all sort of excuses to separate the mother and baby at birth. Worse, they insist on babies needing a formula supplement because “the mother isn’t making enough milk”.

A newborn’s stomach is the size of a teaspoon. Newborns require small frequent feeds, not a wedding buffet.

Newsflash: Of course mothers don’t have milk right after delivery. For the first 2-4 days from delivery, they have colostrum, which is different, less in quantity compared to mature milk – because it is meant to be so.

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Colostrum – Your Baby’s First Vaccine!

Breast is best and it plays a critical part in reducing newborn mortality and keeping babies healthy. (Photo: iStock)

The first hour of birth is so precious it is called the ‘golden hour’.

A mother’s colostrum smells very similar to her amniotic fluid, so that her child can recognise it, be guided to the breast and naturally familiarise with breastfeeding and with the external world.

This happens very smoothly when moms and babies are allowed to remain in close and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact for the first one hour after birth. Even mothers who have had a caesarean delivery can be easily helped to keep their babies skin-to-skin immediately after the surgery. In fact, mothers can be assisted to breastfed their babies right from the time their wound is being stitched, while they are lying down flat on the operation table.

Colostrum is very special. It is so rich in antibodies, calcium, fats, proteins and white globules that it has been called the baby’s “first immunisation”: it helps newborns develop a healthy gut flora and protects them from infections and allergies.

It’s high vitamin-A content protects them against various eye diseases and the laxative quality helps newborns clear-off the meconium (first stool) and prevent jaundice.

Contrary to traditional beliefs, colostrum shall not be discarded: it is a gift for life to our kids. Furthermore, early unrestricted breastfeeding is the key to a good latch and adequate milk supply.

Nature equipped mothers with all they need to help their babies adapt to the world out of their womb, to nourish them and comfort them.

As healthcare professionals, and as a society, it is our responsibility to enable them to provide their newborns the food which was designed for them by eons of evolution.

(Camilla Conti is an internationally certified Lactation Consultant and Childbirth Educator who has lived in India, mostly Delhi, since 2004. Founder of the website www.myyum.net, she provides breastfeeding support to new mothers. Daughter of a gynaechologist, grand-daughter of a midwife and mother of two breastfed children born naturally, she is author and co-author of books on breastfeeding and child nutrition)

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