“Breast is best” as far as the need for feeding your baby arises. Through breastfeeding, you can not only provide high nutrition to your baby but develop an affectionate and emotional bond with her. I was once educating a class of ‘to be mothers’ about the benefits of breastfeeding when one of them came up with a new benefit of breastfeeding, which you would not find anywhere in the books. She said breastfeeding is better over bottle feeding because it saves time. You need to thoroughly wash and sterilize bottle each time you feed. During night, you will not have to get off your bed if you are breastfeeding and this saves a tedious job. This reason brought a smile at my face and each one sitting in the classroom, but this is true.

Breastfeeding is a nightmare for first-time mothers. A pregnant woman thinks that life will turn alright after labor, but it is the beginning of a tiresome journey and not the end. 

How can breastfeeding be made easier?

1. Practice and perfect: Breastfeeding is completely new for you as well as your baby and both learn over a period. Do not expect that you will perfect at it overnight. The first and foremost thing is that you should immediately breastfeed your baby soon after birth. Speak to your doctor and nurses beforehand that you wish to breastfeed your baby, even if you end up having a C-section. 

2. Breastfeeding positions: Half the battle is won, if the baby is held in a proper position. There are different positions of breastfeeding like football hold, crossover hold, side-lying position and the classical cradle hold. Your mother would surely startle if she sees you trying different positions of breastfeeding because she might not be aware of it. The positions can be chosen depending on your comfort. For e.g., a cesarean mother would prefer football position so that her tummy does not hurt. Try each position and decide which one suits you and your baby the most. You can support your baby with pillows but keep in mind that the body of baby should be parallel to your breasts. Take care that the nose of baby should not be pressed against breasts while feeding.

3. Proper Latch: An improper latch is the most common obstacle for every mother. It can give rise to sore, painful and bleeding nipples. Make a point that your baby feeds from areola and not just the nipple. This is the most common cause for poor breast milk production because unknowingly the baby keeps feeding from the nipple and does not get enough milk and thereby the milk production is reduced.

4. Let the baby come to you: I have seen many mothers forcing the breast in baby’s mouth, which is a wrong practice. You should just bring your baby near to you and tickle his chin or lower lip with your breast. The baby will open her mouth wide open and at that time you can offer breast for feeding.

5. Support of family: Breastfeeding could be a painstaking process without the support of family. The elders in the family should always encourage to breastfeed and should not demotivate the nursing mother by unwanted advice. Let her try on her own and she will perfect it with time.

6. Encouragement by doctors: Now-a-days it has become a practice to offer formula milk soon after the birth to make mothers rest which should not be encouraged by the doctors. If the baby is not gaining weight properly, the doctors do not try to find that something must be wrong with breast feeding. Instead, they immediately advise for bottle feeding and parents get dependent on it out of fear.

7. Fear of not lactating enough: The biggest challenge in breastfeeding is that you cannot measure how much milk the baby has taken and therefore, mothers keep wondering that if the breast milk is sufficient for my baby or not. This is one primary reason for mothers to introduce bottle milk to the child. Keep a chart of frequency of your baby’s stool and urine. If the baby is passing out them adequately and weight is improving, it means your breast milk is sufficient for him/her.  

Challenges with breastfeeding in India

1. Very few lactation consultants: There are very few lactation consultants across the country. There should be lactation centers in rural as well as urban cities, where nursing mothers can walk in and get their problems addressed. 

2. Lack of awareness: The only source of guidance in this area is the wisdom of the elders at home. There is not much awareness on seeking help from an expert in the area. 

3. Working mothers: Most of the women are working now-a-days. So, once they resume their jobs, it is difficult for them to continue breastfeeding and this is how infants are introduced to bottles.The concept of breast pump is not widely accepted till date. These mothers should be made aware of breast pumping options.

4. Breastfeeding in public places: Breastfeeding in a public place is very difficult in India. There are very few nursing stations at public places and they are only in metros. So, mothers do not hitch to offer the baby a bottle in public place. 

It is both the right and duty of a mother to breastfeed and nurture her baby, and everyone surrounding her should be a pillar of strength.